Lead Scientist NIRSense and Bionica Labs, VA, United States
Multi-domain military operations involve significant demands on aircrew members’ cognitive agility and resistance to many physical and psychological stressors. The Air Force is interested in new monitoring techniques, compatible with flight environment, to enable real-time objective evaluation of cognitive workload changes and support efforts to predict crewmember overload. The NIRSense Aerie™ cerebral oximeter is flight-certified, helmet and cockpit compatible and uses non-invasive functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to measure cerebral hemodynamics in real-time. A preliminary study was conducted in collaboration with US Air Force Special Operations Command, where Aerie™ was donned on aircrew foreheads during engineering and flight simulator sessions. Aircrew performed visuospatial tasks (custom n-back tests) at the start and end of the session to calibrate their task-related hemodynamics to standardized working memory effort. Outcomes were used to identify task-agnostic time windows of high cognitive workload during simulation, as assessed with fNIRS signal. We present the results of this preliminary evaluation on aircrew and discuss future work.