Neuroergonomics of Cursor Control Devices in Spacecraft Cockpits for Spaceflight Participants

Open Access
Conference Proceedings
Authors: Troy WeekesKazuhiko MomoseThomas Eskridge

Abstract: The commercial space transportation industry is rapidly growing with increasing numbers of spaceflight participants (SFPs). These private individuals receive considerably less training than astronauts before embarking on space missions, which presents an urgent need to develop the cognitive ergonomics that simplify spacecraft cockpit design. Neuroergonomics is an emerging area within cognitive ergonomics, which Parasuraman described as “the study of brain and behavior at work”. This experimental study investigated the neuroergonomics of cursor control devices (CCDs) for spacecraft cockpits by applying electroencephalography (EEG) power indices as objective measures of concentration, relaxation, effort, fatigue, arousal, valence, and absorption during task performance. Data for this study were collected from a sample of twenty-seven participants who performed a Fitt’s cursor control task in PsyToolkit with a counterbalanced device sequence of four different CCDs, i.e., touchpad, touchscreen, joystick, and numpad. The devices were affixed to, and configured in the variable positioning Adaptive Spaceship Cockpit Simulator, which was used to simulate the microgravity environment of space using head-down tilt (HDT). The index of difficulty of the cursor control task trials was varied according to Fitt's law across easy, medium, and difficult levels. The orientation of the simulator varied between upright and HDT orientations. We administered a HDT treatment before the experimental trials in the HDT orientation to induce the physiological effects associated with increased intraocular pressure, which results from microgravity. A HDT recovery period was administered after the experimental trials in the HDT orientation. Participants completed a subjective questionnaire to capture perceived effort at the end of each experimental track. Using the Flow Choice Architecture, we processed EEG signals to compute EEG power indices for a Multivariate Analysis of Variance. There were significant findings in concentration across CCDs during the two orientations. The HDT orientation demanded more concentration than the upright orientation across the devices. This result indicated that there was additional cognitive workload induced by manipulating the CCDs in the HDT orientation. There were significant differences in fatigue across the two orientations. The HDT orientation was associated with greater fatigue levels. An important finding in the subjective questionnaire was the perceived effect of the HDT orientation on cognition. The touchpad consistently demonstrated differences relative to the other CCDs. Task difficulty did not significantly impact any of the EEG indices. No significant interactions were observed in the EEG indices across the orientations, devices, and task difficulty levels. A striking result emerged during the HDT recovery period where most participants exhibited a sleepy-like EEG signature characterized by a consistently high relaxation index. Overall, these results indicated that computational neuroergonomics may produce objective insights about the human spaceflight experience related to orientation and cursor control devices. We recommend that strategies to enhance spacecraft cockpit design include neuroergonomics of CCDs, control devices, and user interfaces, in general.

Keywords: Neuroergonomics, Cursor Control Device, Spacecraft Cockpit, Spaceflight Participant

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1003018

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