Free Content Cognitive Demand of Human Sensorimotor Performance During an Extended Space Mission: A Dual-Task Study

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Abstract:

Bock O, Weigelt C, Bloomberg JJ. Cognitive demand of human sensorimotor performance during an extended space mission: a dual-task study. Aviat Space Environ Med 2010; 81:819–24.

Introduction: Two previous single-case studies found that the dual-task costs of manual tracking plus memory search increased during a space mission, and concluded that sensorimotor deficits during spaceflight may be related to cognitive overload. Since dual-task costs were insensitive to the difficulty of memory search, the authors argued that the overload may reflect stress-related problems of multitasking, rather than a scarcity of specific cognitive resources. Here we expand the available database and compare different types of concurrent task. Methods: Three subjects were repeatedly tested before, during, and after an extended mission on the International Space Station (ISS). They performed an unstable tracking task and four reaction-time tasks, both separately and concurrently. Inflight data could only be obtained during later parts of the mission. Results: The tracking error increased from pre- to in flight by a factor of about 2, both under single- and dual-task conditions. The dual-task costs with a reaction-time task requiring rhythm production was 2.4 times higher than with a reaction-time task requiring visuo-spatial transformations, and 8 times higher than with a regular choice reaction-time task. Conclusions: Long-term sensorimotor deficits during spaceflight may reflect not only stress, but also a scarcity of resources related to complex motor programming; possibly those resources are tied up by sensorimotor adaptation to the space environment.

Keywords: ISS; manual tracking; motor skills; multitasking; sensorimotor adaptation; spaceflight; stress

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3357/ASEM.2608.2010

Publication date: September 1, 2010

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