Performance Assessment Work Station
Cognitive Performance Aboard the Life and Microgravity Spacelab
The impact of microgravity and other stressors on cognitive performance need to be quantified before long duration space flights are planned or attempted since countermeasures may be required. Four astronauts completed 38 sessions of a 20-minute battery of six cognitive performance tests on a laptop computer. Twenty-four sessions were preflight, 9 sessions were in-orbit, and 5 sessions were postflight. Mathematical models of learning were fit to each subject's preflight data for each of 14 dependent variables. Assuming continued improvement, expected values were generated from the models for in-orbit comparison. Using single subject designs, two subjects showed statistically significant in-orbit effects. One subject was degraded in two tests, the other was degraded in one test and exceeded performance expectations in another. Other subjects showed no statistically significant effects on the tests. The factors causing the deterioration in the two subjects can not be determined without appropriate ground-based control groups.
In a previous cooperative USAF/NASA experiment, the Performance Assessment Workstation (PAWS) was flown as part of the payload for the Second International Microgravity Laboratory (IML-2) on-board the Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-65) in July 1994. The experiment studied the interactive effects of microgravity and fatigue on cognitive functioning of three astronauts for 13 days on a dual-shift mission. The same PAWS battery of performance tests used on the IML-2 flight was reflown on LMS. The tests measured short-term memory, spatial processing, attention, tracking, and dual task timesharing. All three astronauts completed 40, 20-minute sessions of the PAWS battery containing 6 performance tests and 2 subjective scales (mood and fatigue) on a laptop computer. Twenty-four sessions were preflight, 13 sessions were in-orbit, and 3 sessions were postflight.
Acta Astronautica Vol. 43, Nos. 3-6, pp. 193-210,