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Visual Perception, Psychomotor Performance, and Complex Motor Performance During an Overnight Air Refueling Simulated Flight

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Russo MB, Kendall AP, Johnson DE, Sing HC, Thorne DR, Escolas SM, Santiago S, Holland DA, Hall SW, Redmond DP. Visual perception, psychomotor performance, and complex motor performance during an overnight air refueling simulated flight. Aviat Space Environ Med 2005; 76(7, Suppl.):C92-103.

Introduction: Visual perception task, complex motor flight task, and psychomotor vigilance task performances were evaluated in U.S. Air Force pilots navigating a high-fidelity fixed wing jet simulator over 26.5 h of continuous wakefulness. Methods: Eight military pilots on flight status performed the primary task of flying a simulated 12.5-h overnight mission in an Air Refueling Part Task Trainer (ARPTT). Response omission to presentation of single- and double-light stimuli displayed in random sequence across the cockpit instrument panel was the metric used to assess choice visual perception task (CVPT) performance. Deviation from an established azimuth heading in the ARPTT during the CVPT was the flight metric used to assess complex motor performance. Speed, lapse, false start, and anticipation were the metrics used to assess psychomotor vigilance task (PVT) performance during crew rest periods. Results: Significant visual perceptual, complex motor, and psychomotor vigilance (speed and lapse) impairments occurred at 19 h awake in the eight-subject group. CVPT response omissions significantly correlated with ARPTT azimuth deviations at r = 0.97, and with PVT speed at r = −0.92 and lapses at r = 0.90. ARPTT azimuth deviations significantly correlated with PVT speed at r = −0.92 and lapses at r = 0.91. Conclusions: Acute sleep deprivation degrades visual perceptual, complex motor, and simple motor performance. Complex motor impairments strongly correlate with visual perceptual impairments. This research provides support for the use of visual perceptual measures as surrogates of complex motor performance in operational situations where the primary cognitive inputs are through the visual system.
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Keywords: aerial refueling; aerospace human factors; fatigue; lapses; psychomotor vigilance; sleep deprivation; visual attention; visual neglect; visual perception

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2005

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