Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Computer Science

First Advisor

Kayvan Najarian


In today’s high paced, hi-tech and high stress environment, with extended work hours, long to-do lists and neglected personal health, sleep deprivation has become common in modern culture. Coupled with these factors is the inherent repetitious and tedious nature of certain occupations and daily routines, which all add up to an undesirable fluctuation in individuals’ cognitive attention and capacity. Given certain critical professions, a momentary or prolonged lapse in attention level can be catastrophic and sometimes deadly. This research proposes to develop a real-time monitoring system which uses fundamental physiological signals such as the Electrocardiograph (ECG), to analyze and predict the presence or lack of cognitive attention in individuals during task execution. The primary focus of this study is to identify the correlation between fluctuating level of attention and its implications on the physiological parameters of the body. The system is designed using only those physiological signals that can be collected easily with small, wearable, portable and non-invasive monitors and thereby being able to predict well in advance, an individual’s potential loss of attention and ingression of sleepiness. Several advanced signal processing techniques have been implemented and investigated to derive multiple clandestine and informative features. These features are then applied to machine learning algorithms to produce classification models that are capable of differentiating between the cases of a person being attentive and the person not being attentive. Furthermore, Electroencephalograph (EEG) signals are also analyzed and classified for use as a benchmark for comparison with ECG analysis. For the study, ECG signals and EEG signals of volunteer subjects are acquired in a controlled experiment. The experiment is designed to inculcate and sustain cognitive attention for a period of time following which an attempt is made to reduce cognitive attention of volunteer subjects. The data acquired during the experiment is decomposed and analyzed for feature extraction and classification. The presented results show that to a fairly reasonable accuracy it is possible to detect the presence or lack of attention in individuals with just their ECG signal, especially in comparison with analysis done on EEG signals. The continual work of this research includes other physiological signals such as Galvanic Skin Response, Heat Flux, Skin Temperature and video based facial feature analysis.


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Is Part Of

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Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

August 2012