Exposure to extreme environments is both mentally and physically taxing, leading to suboptimal performance and even life-threatening emergencies. Physiological and cognitive monitoring could provide the earliest indicator of performance decline and inform appropriate therapeutic intervention, yet little research has explored the relationship between these markers in strenuous settings. The Rim-to-Rim Wearables at the Canyon for Health (R2RWATCH) study is a research project at Sandia National Laboratories funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency to identify which physiological and cognitive phenomena collected by non-invasive wearable devices are the most related to performance in extreme environments. In a pilot study, data were collected from civilians and military warfighters hiking the Rim-to-Rim trail at the Grand Canyon. Each participant wore a set of devices collecting physiological, cognitive, and environmental data such as heart rate, memory, ambient temperature, etc. Promising preliminary results found correlates between physiological markers recorded by the wearable devices and decline in cognitive abilities, although further work is required to refine those measurements. Planned follow-up studies will validate these findings and further explore outstanding questions.
Divis, Kristin; Anderson-Bergman, Clifford; Abbott, Robert; Newton, Victoria; and Emmanuel-Aviña, Glory
"Physiological and Cognitive Factors Related to Human Performance During the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim Hike,"
Journal of Human Performance in Extreme Environments: Vol. 14
Available at: https://docs.lib.purdue.edu/jhpee/vol14/iss1/5