INTRODUCTION: The physiological effects of hypoxic environments can help determine safe limits for workers where cognitive and motor performance is important. We investigated the effects of a PIO2 of 15 kPa and 10 kPa on medial cerebral artery blood flow velocity (CBFV) and psychomotor performance.
METHODS: Over 3 sessions, each involving 3 separate test batteries, 13 subjects breathed either 21 kPa PIO2 (control), 15 kPa PIO2, or 10 kPa PIO2. The tests measured reaction time, spatial orientation, voluntary repetitive movement, and fine manipulation. CBFV, PETCO2, PETO2, Sa02, and BP were recorded throughout.
RESULTS: ANOVA analysis showed that 15 kPa PIO2 did not significantly change psychomotor test performance. The mean number of incorrect responses in the reaction time test significantly increased to 5.6 (SD - 4.0) while breathing 10 kPa PIO2, as did the mean number of errors (7.7 +/- 5.0) in the fine manipulation test. Only 10 kPa PIO2 affected CBFV, causing a significant increase in flow from 50 +/- 6.5 cm x s(-1) to 55 +/- 10.3 cm x s(-1). CBFV significantly increased during three psychomotor tests while breathing air; however, it did not increase further during psychomotor testing in hypoxia.
DISCUSSION: A PIo2 of 15 kPa did not affect subject performance, and should not cause operational risk. At 10 kPa PIO2, accuracy and vigilance were slightly affected; however, the reduction in oxygenation was not great enough to cause major decrements. CBFV was not a good indicator of mental stress during hypoxia.
2006. Vol. 77, no 2, 107-113 p.