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Factors that Influence Reaction TimeScience project video

Abstract

The time it takes for us to react to our surroundings (reaction time) varies depending on a variety of factors. Anyone who has experienced a lack of sleep, or who is on medication (such as antihistamines or other cold medicine), drunk too much alcohol, or has "something on their mind" knows how reaction time can be impacted. In this science project, you will quantify changes in reaction time due to cold, stress, and practice.

Objective

Assess changes to reaction time under different experimental conditions.

Scientific Terms

Reaction time, Simple reaction time, Choice reaction time

Background

Reaction time is a measure of time that elapses from the moment the brain receives electrical impulses from our sense organs, to the time it elicits a response to the situation. The efficiency of this neurological process can be enhanced or compromised; alcohol, drugs, stress, lack of sleep, and aging extend response time, while repeated practice at a task reduces reaction time. There are two types of reaction times: "Simple" and "choice" reaction time. Simple reaction time measures the time between when a stimulus is received by the brain and a response is made tresulting in movement, such as pulling your finger away from a hot stove. Choice reaction time measures the time between when the brain receives a stimulus and a decision of how to respond is made. Choice reaction time can be increased through repeated practice.

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