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High Working Memory Load Impairs Language Processing during a Simulated Piloting Task: An ERP and Pupillometry Study

Causse, Mickaël and Peysakhovich, Vsevolod and Fabre, Eve Floriane High Working Memory Load Impairs Language Processing during a Simulated Piloting Task: An ERP and Pupillometry Study. (2016) Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 10 (240). 1-14. ISSN 1662-5161

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2016.00240

Abstract

Given the important amount of visual and auditory linguistic information that pilots have to process, operating an aircraft generates a high working-memory load (WML). In this context, the ability to focus attention on relevant information and to remain responsive to concurrent stimuli might be altered. Consequently, understanding the effects of WML on the processing of both linguistic targets and distractors is of particular interest in the study of pilot performance. In the present work, participants performed a simplified piloting task in which they had to follow one of three colored aircraft, according to specific written instructions (i.e., the written word for the color corresponding to the color of one of the aircraft) and to ignore either congruent or incongruent concurrent auditory distractors (i.e., a spoken name of color). The WML was manipulated with an n-back sub-task. Participants were instructed to apply the current written instruction in the low WML condition, and the 2-back written instruction in the high WML condition. Results revealed a major effect of WML at behavioral (i.e., decline of piloting performance), electrophysiological, and autonomic levels (i.e., greater pupil diameter). Increased WML consumed resources that could not be allocated to the processing of the linguistic stimuli, as indexed by lower P300/P600 amplitudes. Also, significantly, lower P600 responses were measured in incongruent vs. congruent trials in the low WML condition, showing a higher difficulty reorienting attention toward the written instruction, but this effect was canceled in the high WML condition. This suppression of interference in the high load condition is in line with the engagement/distraction trade-off model. We propose that P300/P600 components could be reliable indicators of WML and that they allow an estimation of its impact on the processing of linguistic stimuli.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:This Document is Protected by copyright and was first published by Frontiers. All rights reserved. It is reproduced with permission.
Audience (journal):International peer-reviewed journal
Uncontrolled Keywords:
Institution:Université de Toulouse > Institut Supérieur de l'Aéronautique et de l'Espace - ISAE-SUPAERO (FRANCE)
Other partners > Université Laval (CANADA)
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Deposited By: Eve Fabre
Deposited On:26 Sep 2016 13:18

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