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Cerebral Oxygenation Responses to Aerobatic Flight

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BACKGROUND: Aerobatic pilots must withstand high and sudden acceleration forces (Gz) up to &'177;10 Gz. The physiological consequences of such a succession of high and abrupt positive and negative Gz on the human body over time remain mostly unknown. This case report emphasizes changes in physiological factors such as cerebral oxygenation and heart rate dynamics collected in real aerobatic flights.

CASE REPORT: A 37-yr-old man, experienced in aerobatic flying, voluntarily took part in this study. During two flight runs (15-20 min), the pilot performed aerobatic maneuvers with multiple high (±10 Gz) positive and negative accelerations. During the flights he wore a Polar heart rate sensor while cerebral oxygenation was measured continuously over his prefrontal cortex via near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS). NIRS allows for measurement of the relative concentration changes of oxygenated hemoglobin (O2Hb) and deoxygenated hemoglobin (HHb), making it possible to determine cerebral oxygenation and hemodynamic status.

DISCUSSION: The continuous in-flight monitoring of O2Hb and HHb revealed the large effects of successive positive and negative Gz exposures on cerebral hemodynamics alterations. The results showed a significant and positive correlation between changes in Gz exposures and O2Hb concentration. This case report highlights that NIRS provides some valuable and sensitive indicators for the monitoring of cerebral hemodynamics during aerobatic flights exposed to multiple and high acceleration forces. To our knowledge, this first study quantifying cerebral oxygenation changes in aerobatics opens the way for the assessment of individual physiological responses and tolerance in pilots to repeated high Gz during real flights.

Fresnel E, Dray G, Pla S, Jean P, Belda G, Perrey S. Cerebral oxygenation responses to aerobatic flight. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2021; 92(10):838-842.

Keywords: acceleration; blood volume; heart rate; monitoring; near-infrared spectroscopy

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2021

More about this publication?
  • 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.

    To access volumes 74 through 85, please click here.
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