Mild Hypoxia and Hypohydration in Aircrew

An emerging research area is the effects of mild hypoxia and hypohydration on complex decision making. An initial laboratory study showed that working memory and complex reasoning in students is marginally significantly degraded in 90-minute exposures to mild hypoxia - equivalent to an altitude of 8000 ft which is typical of the effective altitude in the cabin of commercial aircraft. Future plans include extending the range of mild hypoxia altitude exposures, use of pilots and the combined effects of additional multiple mild stressors such as dehydration and sleep loss –similar to that existing in long distance commercial flights. These studies are being conducted in collaboration with the School of Exercise and Sport and the Aviation School at Massey University, with support from the New Zealand Defence Force Defence Technology Agency and the Royal New Zealand Airforce Aviation Medicine Unit and increasing involvement from the Canadian Defence Research Centre (Toronto).

Publications from this project:

  • Gilbey, A., Mundel. T., Legg. S., Hill, S., Schlader, Z., & Raman, A. (2010). A pilot test of the effect of mild-hypoxia on unrealistically optimistic risk judgements. Aviation Education and Research Proceedings (pp. 7-12). Palmerston North, New Zealand: Massey University School of Aviation. July 28-29.
  • Hill, S., Legg, S., Mundel, T., Gilbey, A., Schlader, Z., & Raman, A. (2010). Trying to think straight at altitude: The effects of mild hypoxia on complex cognition. New Zealand Psychology Society Conference, July 2010.
  • Legg, S., Mundel, T., Hill, S., Gilbey, A., Schlader, Z., & Raman, A. (2010). Preliminary findings for the effects of mild hypoxia on complex decision making: an unrecognised danger in emergency situations in aviation.  Proceedings of the 16th New Zealand Ergonomics Society Conference: Preventing Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders: Present and Future Challenges (pp 57-64). Nelson, New Zealand, 18-19 November.  
  • Legg, S.J., Hill, S., Gilbey, A., Raman, A., Schlader, Z., & Mundel, T. (submitted 2011). Effects of mild hypoxia on complex cognition. Aviation Space and Environmental Medicine.
  • Legg, S., Mundel, T., Hill, S., Gilbey, A., Schlader, Z., & Raman, A (2012). Could mild hypoxia impair pilot decision making in emergencies? Proceedings of the International Ergonomics Association World Congress, Recife, Brazil, February 2012.

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