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EEG alpha spindles and prolonged brake reaction times during auditory distraction in an on-road driving study

: Sonnleitner, Andreas; Treder, Matthias Sebastian; Simon, Michael; Willmann, Sven; Ewald, Arne; Buchner, Axel; Schrauf, Michael


Accident analysis & prevention 62 (2014), pp.110-118
ISSN: 0001-4575
ISSN: 1879-2057
Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung BMBF
01IB08001E; brain@work
Entwicklung von Neurotechnologie-basierten Mensch-Maschine Interaktions-Applikationen für industrielles Umfeld
Journal Article
Fraunhofer IAO ()

Driver distraction is responsible for a substantial number of traffic accidents. This paper describes the impact of an auditory secondary task on drivers' mental states during a primary driving task. N = 20 participants performed the test procedure in a car following task with repeated forced braking on a non-public test track. Performance measures (provoked reaction time to brake lights) and brain activity (EEG alpha spindles) were analyzed to describe distracted drivers. Further, a classification approach was used to investigate whether alpha spindles can predict drivers' mental states. Results show that reaction times and alpha spindle rate increased with time-on-task. Moreover, brake reaction times and alpha spindle rate were significantly higher while driving with auditory secondary task opposed to driving only. In single-trial classification, a combination of spindle parameters yielded a median classification error of about 8% in discriminating the distracted from the alert driving. Reduced driving performance (i.e., prolonged brake reaction times) during increased cognitive load is assumed to be indicated by EEG alpha spindles, enabling the quantification of driver distraction in experiments on public roads without verbally assessing the drivers' mental states.