Morning brain: Real-world neural evidence that high school class times matter

Suzanne Dikker, Saskia Haegens, Dana Bevilacqua, Ido Davidesco, Lu Wan, Lisa Kaggen, James McClintock, Kim Chaloner, Mingzhou Ding, Tessa West, David Poeppel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Researchers, parents and educators consistently observe a stark mismatch between biologically preferred and socially imposed sleep-wake hours in adolescents, fueling debate about high school start times. We contribute neural evidence to this debate with electroencephalogram data collected from high school students during their regular morning, mid-morning and afternoon classes. Overall, student alpha power was lower when class content was taught via videos than through lectures. Students' resting state alpha brain activity decreased as the day progressed, consistent with adolescents being least attentive early in the morning. During the lessons, students showed consistently worse performance and higher alpha power for early morning classes than for mid-morning classes, while afternoon quiz scores and alpha levels varied. Together, our findings demonstrate that both class activity and class time are reflected in adolescents' brain states in a real-world setting, and corroborate educational research suggesting that mid-morning may be the best time to learn.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1193-1202
Number of pages10
JournalSocial cognitive and affective neuroscience
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020


  • alpha oscillations
  • chronobiology
  • circadian rhythms
  • classroom learning
  • hyperscanning
  • portable EEG
  • real-world neuroscience
  • school times

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Morning brain: Real-world neural evidence that high school class times matter'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this