Using Real-Time Lexical indicators to detect cognitive decrements in spaceflight teams: a methodology to dynamically monitor cognitive, emotional, and social mechanisms that influence performance

Sponsor: NASA

P.I.: James E. Driskell, Ph.D., Eduardo Salas, Ph.D.

The requirement of this project is to develop a non-obtrusive objective means of detecting and mitigating cognitive performance deficits, stress, fatigue, anxiety and depression for the operational setting of spaceflight.  One of the greatest challenges in detecting potential decrements as a result of stress is the development of a rich, valid, and unobtrusive measurement system. For example, traditional methods for assessment, such as pen-and-paper instruments, are not practically viable in space, where team members cannot simply sit down and fill out a scale.

The specific aims of this project are to: (1) develop a methodology to assess cognitive and emotional state “at a distance” through spontaneous verbal output in real-time communications and (2) produce a real-time assessment tool to detect cognitive performance deficits, stress, fatigue, anxiety, and depression in the spaceflight operational setting.

The operational context of spaceflight is dynamic, complex, and extreme. Routine and novel tasks are conducted under difficult environmental conditions, and even the simplicity of routine maintenance can be compounded due to weightless conditions. Sleep and circadian rhythm disturbances present challenges for maintaining optimal performance as well. In essence, flight crews are exposed to an array of environmental, task, and interpersonal stressors that can negatively impact performance as well as jeopardize the safety and wellbeing of crewmembers.