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Weber Professor Studies Peak Energy Times for Fighter Pilots

Weber Professor Studies Peak Energy Times for Fighter Pilots

Posted - Feb. 17, 2004 at 7:35 a.m.



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OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- A Weber State University psychology professor and Air Force researchers plan to identify peak energy times for Air Force fighter pilots and possibly determine ways to assure high performance when most needed.

Lauren Fowler will spend a year as an Air Force consultant and will be coordinating with researchers at Brooks City-Base in San Antonio. The former Air Force Base is run by the city and leased to the Air Force.

Fowler and Air Force researchers will study the correlation between a person's body clock and its effect on attention levels.

"Life forces us to do things when we're not physiologically prepared," Fowler said. "We're better at different tasks and events during different times of the day."

She will spend about three weeks this summer doing experiments in a research lab on the base.

The study will involve fighter pilots living in box cars, with no windows and no way to tell time, for at least three days. Researchers will examine how their bodies adjust.

The research also will involve air battle managers, who will do 13-hour, simulated air-battle missions. During the managers' intense sessions, researchers will test them for hormone and stress levels, as well as their eye-pupil response levels. Other factors to be studied include temperature, lighting, diet and sleep rhythms.

Three Weber State psychology students are studying topics that may be incorporated into the study and are volunteering to help Fowler collect and analyze data.

"It's so important for the Air Force to know what the factors are that influence these decisions that have huge consequences," said student Erica Alleman, 24, of Bountiful.

The goal is not only to find how people react to different physiological sleep-related aspects but also to figure out how different factors can be tweaked in order to gain peak performance at targeted times.

"We want to find ways to manipulate factors so they work for us," said student Dirk Mitchell, 24, of South Ogden.

Fowler has spent years studying sleep and the human brain. She worked with chimpanzees during graduate school to learn about sleep patterns.

She has made personal use of her knowledge of circadian rhythms -- the internal clock that determines when it's time for bodily functions such as sleeping and eating.

Knowing that 11 a.m. was the time when most people's verbal skills were at peak levels, she scheduled to defend her doctorate dissertation for just that time.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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