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Led by PD Dr. med. Eva-Maria Elmenhorst
Dr. Elmenhorst is a trained physician with specialization in physiology, doctorate and habilitation holding a venia legendi for ‘Aviation and Space Medicine’. She leads the group ‘Performance and sleep’ and is deputy of the department ‘Sleep and human factors research’. Her primary research interests include (1) Impact of (extreme) work and environmental conditions on sleep, cognitive performance, and health, e.g. effects of sleep loss, shift work, traffic noise, hypoxia, microgravity; (2) Effects of countermeasures to maintain good quality sleep, performance, and health, such as caffeine, noise mitigation; (3) Exploring mechanisms of individual vulnerability to work and environmental conditions, e.g. cerebral adenosine system and its association with performance, individually different efficacy of caffeine.
Dr. Sibylle Benderoth (Dipl. Psych. Dr. phil.)
Sibylle Benderoth is a psychologist with a PhD in social psychology. Her primary research interests include (1) individual cognitive performance under stress, particularly sleepiness and fatigue, (2) group performance and communication during sleepiness and fatigue, and (3) workload of operators (e.g. in control rooms in aeronautics and rail traffic) including future working environments characterized by higher degrees of automation.
Dr. Dorothee Fischer (Dipl.-Psych., Dr. rer. biol. hum.)
Dr. Fischer is a trained psychologist with a PhD in chronobiology on sleep and circadian rhythms in rotational shift work. Her primary research interests include: (1) occupational safety, using a quantitative “risk index” model to estimate accident and injury risk on different shift schedules; (2) associations between irregular sleep and health outcomes, using novel circadian-based metrics to quantify dose-response relationships in epidemiological cohorts; and (3) bio-mathematical modeling of sleep-wake regulation and alertness, to simulate the impact of shift schedules on cognitive performance and develop interventions.
Dr. Christian Mühl (M.Sc. Cognitive Science, Ph.D.)
Christian Mühl holds a PhD in cognitive science with an applied focus on human-machine interaction. He is interested in the influence of stressors (e.g., sleep deprivation, hypoxia, or weightlessness) on cognitive performance in the aerospace domain. Current research topics include the performance of operators in teamwork settings, particularly under sleep deprivation or during the circadian low, and the use of physiological sensors (e.g., eye tracking) to objectively detect and automatically identify performance degradation. One goal of his research is to identify problematic cognitive operator states using non-intrusive sensing modalities to dynamically initiate countermeasures and thereby support collaboration between humans or with machines.
Sarah Piechowski (M.Sc. Psychologie)
Sarah Piechowski is a psychologist and PhD student working on the topic of operational performance in space flight, e.g. the simulated manual control of a spacecraft. Her research interests are (1) acquisition and maintenance of complex operational skills; (2) maintenance of cognitive performance in extreme working environments and under stress; and (3) monitoring of operator status, e.g. by analyzing eye movements.
Effects of hypoxia on the availability of A1 adenosine-Receptors (A1AR) in the human brain (AdenOx)
The ischemic stroke is a frequent medical emergency in Germany with negative consequences for the persons concerned and the public health system. Studies in rodents show that the neuromodulator adenosine and its receptors might have protective effects for the brain under conditions of hypoxia. We want to examine the effects of acute normobaric hypoxia on the availability of A1 adenosine receptors in the human brain using positron emission tomography (PET) and the highly-sensitive radio ligand [18F]CPFPX. The study will contribute mechanistic insight into brain physiologic processes (amongst other in aviation and space) and might support the development of physical and medication therapies against ischemic brain damage. This project is a cooperation between the DLR-ME departments SHF and KLM, and the INM-2 of the Research Center Jülich.
Miniaturization of sensors (MiniSenso)
High work load and stress may negatively impact human cognitive performance. The self-perception of performance limits is an unreliable indicator of excessive work load. Therefore, it is important to identify physiological parameters that allow for the objective evaluation of operators’ current work load. We use simulations with varying degrees of difficulty in the flight simulator (SIMBA) in the DLR in Hamburg to assess psychological and mental work load during flights. Different standardized measures such as questionnaires, a secondary cognitive task, heart rate, and heart rate variability will be examined in their ability to detect individual work load levels. We aim for developing combined psycho-physiological instruments that are sensitive for individual response patterns and can be applied in further studies in the context of aviation. This project is a cooperation between the DLR-ME departments SHF and HH.
Effectiveness of Flight Time Limitations (FTL 2.0; EASA.2019.HVP.11)
The European Union introduced new flight time regulations for scheduled and charter airline operations in 2016, instructing the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to perform a continuous scientific evaluation of the effectiveness of these new regulations. The evaluation includes an assessment of the impact on aircrew alertness and performance of six specified flight duty periods (FDPs), including nighttime and on-call duties. In FTL 2.0, we assess fatigue, sleepiness, and cognitive performance in complex operational environments to evaluate the specified FDPs as part of an international consortium.
Extended Minimum Crew Operations – Single Pilot Operations (eMCO/SiPO);
Due to ongoing developments in technology, automation, and autonomous unmanned aircraft, there is a growing interest and need to explore the feasibility of operating commercial air transport with reduced flight crews in large airplanes. EASA was approached by aircraft manufacturers to contract a scientific evaluation of the regulatory and safety aspects of such new concepts of operations. In eMCO/SiPO, we examine impacts of sleep inertia, pilot fatigue and boredom on the operational demands of extended minimum crew and single pilot operations, as part of a Dutch-German consortium.
Cognition, Performance, and Irregular Timing of Sleep (COGPIT-) Study (DFG FI-2275/3-1)
Irregular sleep often occurs in response to irregular work schedules, posing a risk to worker’s health and safety. Safety is a major concern in aviation, where lapses of attention are potentially fatal. The COGPIT-Study combines approaches in epidemiology and mathematical modeling to examine potential adverse effects of irregular sleep on cognitive function and identify shift schedules that reduce irregular sleep and improve cognitive performance.
Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL) – Sueño Ancillary Study
HCHS/SOL aims to describe the prevalence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and major CVD risk factors among US Hispanic/Latino individuals (https://sites.cscc.unc.edu/hchs/). The Sueño Ancillary Study was designed as part of HCHS/SOL to assess the prevalence of poor sleep habits and to define the impact of poor sleep on health outcomes by objectively measuring sleep for a week in a subgroup of participants of the parent HCHS-SOL study. We use data from Sueño to estimate associations between irregular sleep and physical and mental health, using novel, circadian metrics to quantify sleep regularity.
LOKI (collaboration of aeronautics operators and AI systems)
In the future, many working domains like aeronautics and space will be characterized by the interaction with AI systems. In the DLR-project LOKI collaboration of AI systems with human operators in aeronautics is examined. Our research group deals with the question how AI systems can be used in order to counteract performance impairments due to fatigue during team work of operators in control rooms. We will develop an algorithm for automated recognition of fatigue and conduct an experimental laboratory study in our sleep laboratory.
TraCo (Train Control and Management)
The DLR-project TraCo highlights research questions on the way to a highly automated railroad system of the future. Our focus in this project is the interaction between human and automation. As a first step we will develop metrics for the assessment of workload and performance of control room operators on the individual and group level during shiftwork in order to prepare an experimental study simulating a highly automated working environment.