Measuring neurophysiological signals in aircraft pilots and car drivers for the assessment of mental workload, fatigue and drowsiness

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▽ EEG gathered during drive is sensitive to different degrees of mental workload. ▽ EEG increases in theta band and decrease in alpha band during difficult drive. ▽ Mental workload in pilots could be accurately detected offline by EEG data. ▽ Research will focus on closing the loop between pilot's mental state and vehicle.

This paper reviews published papers related to neurophysiological measurements (electroencephalography: EEG, electrooculography EOG; heart rate: HR) in pilots/drivers during their driving tasks. The aim is to summarise the main neurophysiological findings related to the measurements of pilot/driver's brain activity during drive performance and how particular aspects of this brain activity could be connected with the important concepts of “mental workload”, “mental fatigue” or “situational awareness”. Review of the literature suggests that exists a coherent sequence of changes for EEG, EOG and HR variables during the transition from normal drive, high mental workload and eventually mental fatigue and drowsiness. In particular, increased EEG power in theta band and a decrease in alpha band occurred in high mental workload. Successively, increased EEG power in theta as well as delta and alpha bands characterise the transition between mental workload and mental fatigue. Drowsiness is also characterised by increased blink rate and decreased HR values. The detection of such mental states is actually performed “offline” with accuracy around 90% but not online. A discussion on the possible future applications of findings provided by these neurophysiological measurements in order to improve the safety of the vehicles will be also presented.

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