Brighter Time: A Smartphone App Recording Cognitive Task Performance and Illuminance in Everyday Life

Marina Gardesevic, Altug Didikoglu, Samuel J. D. Lawrence, Céline Vetter, Timothy Brown, Annette Allen, Robert Lucas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Light is an influential regulator of behavioural and physiological state in mammals. Features of cognitive performance such as memory, vigilance and alertness can be altered by bright light exposure under laboratory and field conditions. However, the importance of light as a regulator of performance in everyday life is hard to assess and has so far remained largely unclear. We set out to address this uncertainty by developing a tool to capture measures of cognitive performance and light exposure, at scale, and during everyday life. To this end, we generated an app (Brighter Time) which incorporated a psychomotor vigilance (PVT), an N-back and a visual search task with questionnaire-based assessments of demographic characteristics, general health, chronotype and sleep. The app also measured illuminance during task completion using the smartphone’s intrinsic light meter. We undertook a pilot feasibility study of Brighter Time based on 91-week-long acquisition phases within a convenience sample (recruited by local advertisements and word of mouth) running Brighter Time on their own smartphones over two study phases in winter and summer. Study compliance was suitable (median = 20/21 requested task completions per subject). Statistically significant associations were observed between subjective sleepiness and performance in all tasks. Significant daily variations in PVT and visual search performance were also observed. Higher illuminance was associated with reduced reaction time and lower inverse efficiency score in the visual search. Brighter Time thus represents a viable option for large-scale collection of cognitive task data in everyday life, and is able to reveal associations between task performance and sleepiness, time of day and current illuminance. Brighter Time’s utility could be extended to exploring associations with longer-term patterns of light exposure and/or other light metrics by integrating with wearable light meters.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)577-594
Number of pages18
JournalClocks and Sleep
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2022


  • alertness
  • attention
  • cognitive performance
  • light exposure
  • memory
  • smartphone app
  • visual search


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