Using Near Infrared Spectroscopy to Detect Mental Overload in Flight Simulator
Authors: Mickaël Causse, Nadine Matton
Abstract: Piloting requires high level of cognitive control, especially in demanding situations. When cognitive functions are overloaded, no more sufficient resources are available to manage the situation. As a consequence, it is important to have a valid measurement tool of pilots’ online workload. In this research, we used a BIOPAC 16 channel fNIRS to monitor prefrontal activity of eleven airline student pilots during two landing scenarios (easy and difficult) in a flight simulator. As expected, results from subjective measurements revealed that the perceived cognitive mental effort was higher during the difficult landing. The right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) demonstrated the highest concentration changes of oxy-hemoglobin (O2Hb) during both scenarios, with the difficult landing inducing higher concentration changes than the easy landing. These results demonstrate the sensitivity of fNIRS to detect mental overload in complex and ecological scenarios. The findings of this study may be applied to real-time monitoring of the pilot mental workload as well as the evaluation and the certification of new cockpit designs.
Keywords: functional near infrared spectroscopy, cognitive workload, aviation safety, flight performance
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