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Free Content Hypoxia and Coriolis Illusion in Pilots During Simulated Flight

INTRODUCTION: Pilots’ vision and flight performance may be impeded by spatial disorientation and high altitude hypoxia. The Coriolis illusion affects both orientation and vision. However, the combined effect of simultaneous Coriolis illusion and hypoxia on saccadic eye movement has not been evaluated.

METHOD: A simulated flight was performed by 14 experienced pilots under 3 conditions: once under normal oxygen partial pressure and twice under reduced oxygen partial pressures, reflecting conditions at 5000 m and 6000 m (16,404 and 19,685 ft), respectively. Eye movements were evaluated with a saccadometer.

RESULTS: At normal oxygen pressure, Coriolis illusion resulted in 55% and 31% increases in mean saccade amplitude and duration, respectively, but a 32% increase in mean saccade frequency was only noted for saccades smaller than the angular distance between cockpit instruments, suggesting an increase in the number of correction saccades. At lower oxygen pressures a pronounced increase in the standard deviation of all measures was noticed; however, the pattern of changes remained unchanged.

DISCUSSION: Simple measures of saccadic movement are not affected by short-term hypoxia, most likely due to compensatory mechanisms.

Kowalczuk KP, Gazdzinski SP, Janewicz M, Gąsik M, Lewkowicz R, Wyleżoł M. Hypoxia and Coriolis illusion in pilots during simulated flight. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2016; 87(2):108–113.

Keywords: Coriolis illusion; hypoxia; oculomotor activity; simulated flight

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Military Institute of Aviation Medicine, Warsaw, Poland

Publication date: February 1, 2016

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  • This journal (formerly Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine), representing the members of the Aerospace Medical Association, is published monthly for those interested in aerospace medicine and human performance. It is devoted to serving and supporting all who explore, travel, work, or live in hazardous environments ranging from beneath the sea to the outermost reaches of space. The original scientific articles in this journal provide the latest available information on investigations into such areas as changes in ambient pressure, motion sickness, increased or decreased gravitational forces, thermal stresses, vision, fatigue, circadian rhythms, psychological stress, artificial environments, predictors of success, health maintenance, human factors engineering, clinical care, and others. This journal also publishes notes on scientific news and technical items of interest to the general reader, and provides teaching material and reviews for health care professionals.

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