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Eliciting Sustained Mental Effort Using the Toulouse N-Back Task: Prefrontal Cortex and Pupillary Responses

Causse, Mickaël and Peysakhovich, Vsevolod and Mandrick, Kevin Eliciting Sustained Mental Effort Using the Toulouse N-Back Task: Prefrontal Cortex and Pupillary Responses. (2016) In: Advances in Neuroergonomics and Cognitive Engineering. (Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing). Springer International Publishing, 185-193. ISBN 978-3-319-41690-8

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-41691-5_16


In safety-critical environments such as piloting or air-traffic control, the study of mental overload is crucial to further reduce accident rates. However, researchers face the complexity of inducing an important amount of mental effort in laboratory conditions. Therefore, we designed a novel paradigm, named “Toulouse N-back Task” (TNT), combining the classical n-back task with a mathematical processing to replicate the multidimensional sustained high mental workload (MW) existing in many complex occupations. Instead of memorizing and comparing unique items, as in classical n-back task, participants have to memorize and to compare the results of mathematics operations. Twenty partic-ipants were tested with the TNT under three load factors (n = 0, 1, or 2) with functional Near-InfraRed Spectroscopy (fNIRS) and pupillary measurements. The results revealed that higher difficulty degraded the cognitive performance together with increased prefrontal oxygenation and an increase in pupil diameter. Hence, hemodynamic responses and pupil diameter were sensitive to different levels of TNT’s difficulty. This paradigm could serve as a viable alternative to the classical n-back task and enable the progressive increase of the difficulty, for example, to test “high performer” individuals.

Item Type:Book Section
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)
Laboratory name:
Deposited On:02 Nov 2016 14:54

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