Joined: 15 Dec 2006
|Posted: Sat May 26, 2018 7:20 am Post subject: Scientists Examine Why Some Pilots Thrive Under Pressure, an
|Scientists Examine Why Some Pilots Thrive Under Pressure, and Some Crack
Every commercial pilot would prefer nothing but uneventful flights, but sometimes the things go wrong and pilots have to both handle drastically shifting circumstances while maintaining the mental calm to process new information as it comes in. It's a lot to ask of anyone, which is why scientists at Drexel University have begun measuring the brain activity of pilots in real-time.
Using technology called functional near-infrared spectroscopy, or fNIRS, the scientists are able to monitor pilot activity while they move about the cockpit and make decisions. An fNIRS system keeps track of blood oxygenation changes in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain where problem solving, memory, judgement and impulse control are located.
When a person is learning a new skill, the prefrontal cortex is highly active. But as a task becomes a more learned trait, the brain is able to spread its resources out across other areas. This gives the prefrontal cortex space to breathe, so to speak, in the case of a split-second decision needed to be made.
"Unfortunately, many human-machine interfaces expose users to workload extremes, diminishing the operator's attention and potentially leading to catastrophic consequences," says Hasan Ayaz, PhD, an associate research professor at Drexel, in a press release. Ayaz and co-author Frédéric Dehais, of ISAE-SUPAERO in Toulouse, France have published their work in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
Researchers split 28 pilots into two teams. One team flew in actual planes and the other that stayed in flight simulators. With fNIRS systems monitoring their brain activity, the pilots began a series of memorization tests given to them by pre-recorded air traffic control instructions for flight parameters. These varied in difficulty and in how they were distributed to the pilots.