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 Ultra-precise chip-scale sensor detects unprecedentedly small changes at the nanoscale
18.01.2017 | The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

nachricht Data analysis optimizes cyber-physical systems in telecommunications and building automation
18.01.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Algorithmen und Wissenschaftliches Rechnen SCAI

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland

19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Not of Divided Mind

19.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Molecule flash mob

19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>