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    A Hot Topic for Cold Weather Warfighter

    A Hot Topic for Cold Weather Warfighter

    Photo By Amanda Wagner | Training volunteers conducting neurocognitive and physical performance study at Marine...... read more read more



    Story by John Marciano and Amanda Wagner

    Naval Health Research Center

    The International Congress on Soldiers’ Physical Performance (ICSPP) is held once every three years and attracts scientists, practitioners, and military leaders from all over the world. This sentinel meeting is known for exceptional content regarding applied, operationally relevant military human performance research. The theme for ICSPP 2020 was “Optimizing the Winter Soldier” and was held February 11–14 in Quebec City, Canada.
    Modern conflicts have taken our armed forces around the globe and placed them in diverse climates ranging from oppressive heat and humidity to freezing temperatures. Mr. Jay Heaney, Thermal Physiologist and Deputy Director of the Naval Health Research Center’s (NHRC) Warfighter Performance Department, presented his team’s work assessing the physical and neurocognitive responses to cold water immersion and rewarming. These findings, which are the culmination of data collected over a five year period, directly informs practice and policy for military operations in the austere environment. The Thermal Physiology Team in NHRC’s Warfighter Performance Department seeks to broaden the understanding of the physiological effects of harsh environmental temperatures. The goal is to develop evidence-based solutions to manage heat and cold stress while protecting warfighter health and maximizing performance.

    “The team presented several talks on the impact of exposure to cold water and cold air temperature on cognitive performance. As military operations transition to frigid environments, NHRC is investigating both cognitive and physical performance issues. One innovative approach being used in these investigations is mobile electroencephalography (EEG) while performing cognitive tasks. Thus far, this technique has provided unique insights to neurocognitive elements of human performance in cold environments, with delays in cognitive response observed when body temperature decreases,” explains Mr. Heaney. Exposure to environmental stressors, such as freezing cold water can cause physiological and cognitive deterioration leading to decreased performance. For the warfighter, this reduces capabilities and effectiveness, which can then lead to compromised missions.
    At the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California, training is conducted to prepare both warfighters and the medical personnel who care for them to operate in cold environments. During the three week course, students are taught the deleterious effects of accidental hypothermia as part of their training. Students are taught best practices on how to quickly and effectively rewarm following a ten minute ice water immersion exercise, which facilitates return to operational tasks.

    While it is well know that many warfighters exhibit functional limitations resulting from exposure to cold environments, the specific reasons for such impairments are not well delineated. To better understand the underlying causes, NHRC’s Warfighter Performance team used EEG hardware and other signal processing techniques to assess participants while in the frigid water. Cognitive results paired with EEG recordings provided valuable information on warfighter’s neurocognitive responses during cold water immersion and rewarming.

    One of the lead scientists of the Thermal Physiology Team, Dr. Doug Jones, not only manages the study but invests his work on a personal level. During his time away from the lab, he spends his weekends in the winter volunteering as an alpine ski patroller for the Snow Valley Mountain Patrol, where he has seen firsthand, the effects of hypothermia. “This work has allowed me to blend my passion for the mountains and cold environments with ground-breaking research to identify specific performance impairments that warfighters are encountering in cold operational settings,” comments Dr. Jones.
    At this time, NHRC’s Warfighter Performance Department is the only research group that has been able to collect high quality EEG data in the field during cold environmental conditions.

    NHRC’s mission is to optimize the operational readiness and health of our armed forces and families by conducting research, development, testing and evaluation informing Department of Defense (DoD) policy. NHRC supports military mission readiness with research and development that delivers high-value, high-impact solutions to the health and readiness challenges our military population faces on the battlefield, at sea, on foreign shores, and at home. NHRC’s team of distinguished scientists and researchers consists of active duty service members, federal civil service employees and contractors, whose expertise includes physiology, microbiology, psychology, epidemiology, and biomedical engineering.




    Date Taken: 02.27.2020
    Date Posted: 02.27.2020 18:50
    Story ID: 364091
    Location: SAN DIEGO, US

    Web Views: 168
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