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Aviat Space Environ Med. 2003 Jan;74(1):11-20.

Eye tracking, point of gaze, and performance degradation during disorientation.

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Defence R&D Canada-Toronto, Toronto, Ont., Canada.



The cognitive cockpit concept has been proposed as a potential disorientation countermeasure. It involves monitoring the pilot's physiological, behavioral and subjective responses during disorientation. This data is combined to provide a real time model of pilot state, which is used as a basis for optimizing pilot performance. This study attempts to investigate whether there are consistent behavioral or physiological "markers" that can be monitored during a specific disorientation scenario.


An Integrated Physiological Trainer with interactive aircraft controls and an eye-tracking device was employed. Fourteen subjects proficient in maintaining straight-and-level flight and who have acquired the skills in changing attitude participated in the study. They were exposed to a flight profile consisting of straight-and-level flying and change in attitude without exposure to a head roll (control condition) and a profile with exposure to a head roll (experimental conditions) during constant yaw rotation. Flight performance parameters and subjects' eye movements and point of gaze behavior were monitored continuously.


Immediately on the return to upright head position, all subjects reported a strong apparent pitch displacement that lasted < or = 20 s and a lesser sensation of lateral movement. Significant differences (p < 0.01) were noted on a number of scanning behaviors between the control and the experimental conditions. The appearance of nystagmus was apparent as indicated by the number of involuntary saccades during disorientation. Flight performance decrement in the experimental conditions was reflected by a significant deviation in maintaining airspeed (p < 0.01).


It appears that the pitch illusion consistently affects visual scanning behavior and is responsible for the decrement in flight performance observed in the simulator.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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