EEG Theta Power Activity Reflects Workload among Army Combat Drivers: An Experimental Study
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Brain activityCognitionDriving simulationEEGHumveeNeuroergonomicsTanks
Diaz-Piedra, C., Sebastián, M. V., & Di Stasi, L. L. (2020). EEG theta power activity reflects workload among army combat drivers: an experimental study. Brain sciences, 10(4), 199. [doi:10.3390/brainsci10040199]
SponsorshipThis work was supported by Santander Bank–CEMIX UGR-MADOC (grant number PINs2018-15 to CDP & LLDS) and the Centro Universitario de la Defensa–Zaragoza (grant numbers 2015-05 and 2017-03 to MVS). Additional support was obtained from the Unit of Excellence on Brain, Behavior, and Health (SC2), funded by the Excellence actions program of the University of Granada. The funding organizations had no role in the design or conduct of this research. Research by LLDS is supported by the Ramón y Cajal fellowship program from the Spanish State Research Agency (RYC-2015-17483).
We aimed to evaluate the effects of mental workload variations, as a function of the road environment, on the brain activity of army drivers performing combat and non-combat scenarios in a light multirole vehicle dynamic simulator. Forty-one non-commissioned officers completed three standardized driving exercises with different terrain complexities (low, medium, and high) while we recorded their electroencephalographic (EEG) activity. We focused on variations in the theta EEG power spectrum, a well-known index of mental workload. We also assessed performance and subjective ratings of task load. The theta EEG power spectrum in the frontal, temporal, and occipital areas were higher during the most complex scenarios. Performance (number of engine stops) and subjective data supported these findings. Our findings strengthen previous results found in civilians on the relationship between driver mental workload and the theta EEG power spectrum. This suggests that EEG activity can give relevant insight into mental workload variations in an objective, unbiased fashion, even during real training and/or operations. The continuous monitoring of the warfighter not only allows instantaneous detection of over/underload but also might provide online feedback to the system (either automated equipment or the crew) to take countermeasures and prevent fatal errors.