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Advanced MRI Techniques to Assess Sleep Deprivation Vulnerability among Soldiers and Potentially Enhance Performance with Real-Time Biofeedback

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Conference paper

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NATO needs better methods of measuring and predicting human performance, as well as novel methods of training soldiers that might enhance performance. New breakthroughs with magnetic resonance imaging MRI show promise in both areas. Rationale Our group initially and now at least three others, have demonstrated that a baseline fMRI scan while subjects are performing a task can predict who will respond poorly or well after sleep deprivation SD. That is, the degree a person activates specific brain regions while performing a task when fully rested is related to and can predict their performance under a stressful condition like sleep deprivation SD. We discuss whether more research in this area might develop this into a useful vocational screening tool. Description of methods employed and results obtained Over the past year, we have developed methods to detect brain activity during MRI scanning and to feed those activity levels back to participants during the scan. This real-time feedback allows participants to adjust their performance based on their own brain activity, with the aim to increase brain activity. We have completed a preliminary study with 12 healthy young adults in a 3 Tesla Siemens MRI scanner and have ongoing research to further optimize brain feedback protocols. In the preliminary study, we first completed a baseline scan where participants were asked to imagine moving their right hand. In the second and third scans, participants were given real or false feedback counterbalanced order regarding their brain activity in left premotor brain cortex. Often brain activity decreases with repeated scanning, perhaps due to fatigue effects. We found that brain activity with real feedback remained at baseline levels in left premotor cortex, while brain activity with false feedback decreased. We hypothesize that brain feedback training can be used to enhance performance or maintain performance at baseline levels despite fatigue.

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  • Psychology
  • Stress Physiology

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