Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Designing a digital toolbox to quickly check cognitive function

14.04.2003


A new computer software package, currently under development, will give the term “personal digital assistant” (PDA) a new meaning, helping users quickly and easily evaluate if they are operating at their mental best.


Tests on hand-held, personal digital assistant devices are being developed so astronauts can conduct quick, self tests to determine their cognitive processes, such as the ability to pay attention. These tests can be used to evaluate how lack of sleep, physical exercise, hormonal variations or even diet affect cognitive function.

Photo courtesy of L. Barry Hetherington for the NSBRI.



“Difficult tasks, such as an astronaut performing a space walk or a surgeon doing a complicated operation, require the utmost attention and vigilance. We’re developing a way for people to test themselves and make sure they are mentally up to the challenge,” said Dr. Stephen Kosslyn, a researcher on the National Space Biomedical Research Institute’s (NSBRI) neurobehavioral and psychosocial factors team. “Test results can help users determine if they need to eat, sleep, exercise, or better focus their thoughts on the task at hand.”

MiniCog, a new software package being developed and tested by Kosslyn’s research team, could help people in many situations determine what they are capable of safely achieving. The program is quick, easy to use, and designed for use on the newest-generation PDA. MiniCog contains nine cognitive tasks that evaluate attention, working memory, problem-solving ability, motor control and ability to switch thinking among cognitive sets. The battery of tasks does not have to be taken all at once, but rather a subset of tests can be used to assess certain aspects of the user’s mental ability at a given time. “Each task takes about two minutes to complete,” Kosslyn said.


“Once you’ve taken the tests a couple of times, you won’t need to read the instructions anymore, and the tasks are easier to complete without affecting the outcome of the test,” Kosslyn said. “It’s more like a game.”

The program keeps users’ scores, so they can see how they are performing relative to past tests. A graph comes up at the end that shows the results.

The package is designed for astronauts who often have sleep disruption while in flight or experience other side effects from being in a weightless environment, but it will be applicable to other industries or people in extreme environments. For example, surgeons could utilize the tests before beginning a lengthy procedure, or long-distance truck drivers could determine when they need a nap.

“The tasks used in MiniCog are based on validated paradigms and documented cognitive performance tests, but the stimuli for the tasks are new to this package and the duration of the tasks varies from standard tests,” said Jennifer Shephard, research assistant on the project.

The well-documented Stroop Test, used for decades as an evaluator for attention, is one of the tasks. With MiniCog, the word “red” appears on the PDA screen, but the color of the word can be blue. A user is asked to quickly respond with the color of the ink.

Another test, the “odd-man-out,” asks users to identify a lower-case letter in a series of upper-case characters. At some point the test switches, and users are asked to choose an odd letter in a series rather than the case. MiniCog measures how much time it takes the user to make the switch and the errors the user makes.

While undergoing pilot testing, user feedback and data were analyzed to refine the timing of the tasks. Now, Kosslyn’s group is gathering comparative information among users and validating the tasks against traditional cognitive tests. Future tests will include using the program on test subjects who are working in extreme environments.

“Once we have a final program with user averages that model what normal variability is under different, stressful environments, we can provide people with enough information so they’ll take the proper precautions,” Shephard said. “That’s why we designed MiniCog. We want users to know how they’re doing, so they can take care in future behavior whether it’s driving another shift or doing a space walk.”



The NSBRI, funded by NASA, is a consortium of institutions studying the health risks related to long-duration space flight. The Institute’s research and education projects take place at more than 70 institutions across the United States.

Liesl Owens | NSBRI
Further information:
http://www.nsbri.org/NewsPublicOut/20030411.html
http://www.nsbri.org/NewsPublicOut/Release.epl?r=42

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Supercomputing the emergence of material behavior
18.05.2018 | University of Texas at Austin, Texas Advanced Computing Center

nachricht Keeping a Close Eye on Ice Loss
18.05.2018 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

When corals eat plastics

24.05.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Surgery involving ultrasound energy found to treat high blood pressure

24.05.2018 | Medical Engineering

First chip-scale broadband optical system that can sense molecules in the mid-IR

24.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>