|| Future exploratory long-duration missions will incorporate a crew of six on a mission length of approximately 2.5 years. Challenges include the requirement for the crew to function autonomously, under significant communication delays, and with the potential for increased crew and interpersonal friction or tension. The specific aims of this research are to (1) develop a methodology to assess cognitive and emotional state at a distance though analysis of spontaneous verbal output in real-time communications and (2) test the feasibility of a real-time assessment tool, STRESSnet, to detect cognitive performance deficits, stress, fatigue, anxiety, and depression in the spaceflight operational setting.
Because the health and well-being of crew members directly affects mission success, it is important to track cognitive/emotional changes that may indicate a deficit. One problem with many existing assessment methods is that most require direct observation of behavior or performance or self-assessment by a pen and paper-type instrument. The requirement to assess individual and team functioning at a distance suggests the potential efficacy of a methodology to assess cognitive and emotional state in real-time from ongoing or spontaneous verbal output. The basic premise of this work is that spontaneous verbal output provides a natural and valid indicator of basic cognitive processes. Natural word use is not prone to the typical limitations of self-report measurements. That is, natural language use is less subject to social desirability bias, and can be derived in real-time without interfering with the cognitive processes being measured, and without interrupting crew performance. Moreover, natural word use is reliable and consistent across time and context, and can be meaningfully measured in individuals and teams.
STRESSnet is a lexical analysis tool designed to provide a non-obtrusive means of detecting stress and related deficits in long-duration spaceflight through the assessment of spontaneous verbal output in real-time crew communications. The research builds on existing work on text and sentiment analysis; however, STRESSnet is unique in that (1) it is specifically designed to assess stress and related cognitive/emotional states, (2) we draw on existing astronaut communications and mission logs to develop a lexicon that includes terms unique to this environment, and (3) we developed STRESSnet with the specific goal of application as a tool to assess user state and provide automatic schedule recommendations for crew work/leisure activities to counter identified deficits. STRESSnet provides an unobtrusive means to evaluate ongoing task communications within the crew and between the crew and mission control in order to assess cognitive/emotional states such as workload, negative affect, stress, anxiety, and depression.
Individualization of this tool to each crew member can be achieved in the 5-year pre-training period. This tool will be tested in Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA), NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO), and other analogs, as well as tested in archival analyses using existing mission transcripts.
|Research Impact/Earth Benefits:
|| The operational context of spaceflight is dynamic, complex, and extreme (e.g., Mallis & DeRoshia, 2005; NASA, 2007). In the long-duration exploratory missions of the future, these demands may be exacerbated because of the longer periods of isolation and confinement, the increased autonomy of the crew, and the potential for greater tension and interpersonal conflict (Beven, 2012). In brief, flight crews will be exposed to an array of environmental, task, and interpersonal stressors that can negatively impact performance as well as jeopardize the safety and well-being of crew members. According to the NASA Human Research Roadmap (Slack, Shea, Leveton, Whitmire, & Schmidt, 2009), Long-duration missions to remote environments will increase astronaut exposure to extreme isolation and confinement, resulting in higher stress levels and an increased risk of crew morale deterioration. Furthermore, Strangman (2010) has noted that there exists a large number of reports from the early age of exploration to the present day indicating that mood disturbance, depression, anxiety, and hostility are all substantial concerns for spaceflight (cf. Shepanek, 2005; Stuster, 2011). Unlike teams in the experimental laboratory that can be examined under a microscope, teams in the real world operate autonomously, apart from direct observation and supervision, and operate in a fluid, dynamic manner to achieve the team's objective (Driskell, Burke, Driskell, Salas, & Neuberger, 2014). Therefore, the requirement exists to develop non-obtrusive means of detecting cognitive performance deficits, stress, fatigue, or anxiety in situ without the intrusion of the psychologist's typical array of questions and questionnaires. The requirement to assess individual and team functioning at a distance suggests the potential efficacy of a methodology to assess cognitive and emotional states in real-time from ongoing or spontaneous verbal output. In brief, we believe that we can track stress, anxiety, and related cognitive and emotional states in team performance settings via non-obtrusive monitoring of lexical output.
Mallis, M. M., & DeRoshia, C. W. (2005). Circadian rhythms, sleep, and performance in space. Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, 76, B94-B107.
Slack, K., Shea, C., Leveton, L. B., Whitmire, A. M., & Schmidt, L. L. (2009). Risk of behavioral and psychiatric conditions. Human Health and Performance Risks of Space Exploration Missions. NASA SP-2009-3405. Houston, TX: National Aeronautics and Space Administration Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, 3-45.
Strangman, G. (2010). Human cognition and long duration space flight (White paper). Prepared for NASA-Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX: Behavioral Health and Performance.
Shepanek, M. (2005). Human behavioral research in space: quandaries for research subjects and researchers. Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, 76, B25-B30.
Stuster, J. (2011). Bold endeavors: Lessons from polar and space exploration. Naval Institute Press.
Driskell, T., Burke, S., Driskell, J. E., & Salas, E., & Neuberger, L. (2014). Steeling the team: Assessing individual and team functioning 'at a distance.' The Military Psychologist, 29, 12-18.