The effects of workload on respiratory variables in simulated flight: A preliminary study

Maria Katsamanis Karavidas, Paul M. Lehrer, Shou En Lu, Evgeny Vaschillo, Bronya Vaschillo, Andrew Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


In this pilot study, we investigated respiratory activity and end-tidal carbon dioxide (PetCO2) during exposure to varying levels of work load in a simulated flight environment. Seven pilots (age: 34-60) participated in a one-session test on the Boeing 737-800 simulator. Physiological data were collected while pilots wore an ambulatory multi-channel recording device. Respiratory variables, including inductance plethysmography (respiratory pattern) and pressure of end-tidal carbon dioxide (PetCO2), were collected demonstrating change in CO2 levels proportional to changes in flight task workload. Pilots performed a set of simulation flight tasks. Pilot performance was rated for each task by a test pilot; and self-report of workload was taken using the NASA-TLX scale. Mixed model analysis revealed that respiration rate and minute ventilation are significantly associated with workload levels and evaluator scores controlling for " vanilla baseline" condition. Hypocapnia exclusively occurred in tasks where pilots performed more poorly. This study was designed as a preliminary investigation in order to develop a psychophysiological assessment methodology, rather than to offer conclusive findings. The results show that the respiratory system is very reactive to high workload conditions in aviation and suggest that hypocapnia may pose a flight safety risk under some circumstances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-160
Number of pages4
JournalBiological Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


  • Aeronautics
  • Hypocapnia
  • Ventilation
  • Workload


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