The following is a brief description of some of the contract work NTI has done. Click the name of the contract to see a desciption.
Cognitive Test Battery to Detect Deficit due to "ChemoBrain"
Persistent cognitive impairment (e.g., memory problems) are a frequent complaint of patients during both the treatment and survivorship phases of cancer. To better understand this phenomenon, NIH requested the development of a portable test that patients can use at home to determine if their cognitive abilities are impaired as a result of cancer treatment. To do this, it is important to regularly assess cognitive function and monitor it over time. Typically, such assessment requires a lengthy session with a clinician. The solution (MindCap) developed in this Phase I by Intelligent Automation, Inc. (IAI) and its partner NTI, Inc. (NTI) allows patients to conveniently self-assess using personal smartphones or tablet devices. The MindCap solution includes a cross-platform mobile patient app for taking tests and self-monitoring, and a web-based provider portal for monitoring of results.
Innovative features of MindCap include:
Development of a Portable, Field-Usable Cognitive Test Battery (ACRA)
As military conflict becomes more complex and technologically sophisticated, there is a need to focus attention on the individual as both warrior and system controller. The Department of Defense requested the development of cognitive assessment/readiness test batteries based on a variety of theoretical underpinnings. NTI assessed the current state-of-the art, and developed a recommended approach to test battery development that encompasses behavioral and physiological measures of skills critical to military and civilian missions. In a Phase I Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR), managed out of the Army Proving Ground at Aberdeen, MD, NTI recommended a complete series of physiological and performance tests, hardware/software approaches, and test selection procedures. These tests were implemented as a test battery (ACRA) as part of the Army's "Cognitive Fightability" program.
The Army Cognitive Readiness Assessment (ACRA) system (see above) consists of 12 neuropsychological tests designed to evaluate the cognitive fightability of the dismounted warrior. Although ACRA has been used successfully in a number of operational test and evaluation experiments, it demands expert input from the user, as well as sophistication in interpretation. Since delivery of the ACRA system to the Army, there have been several technological breakthroughs that allow expanded applicability to all Army (and DoD) jobs and missions. These developments offer the possibility that traditional static cognitive assessment testing approach could be expanded into predictive, dynamic models permitting estimates of soldier cognitive fightability for some time into the future. This project explored these possibilities as well as the addition of physiological metrics, carried out proof-of-concept demonstrations for several enhanced applications, and prepared for implementation of the final product.
NASA Cognitive Assessment Tool (NCAT)
This contract with NASA developed a “next generation” technique for quantifying the cognitive demands of specific jobs or missions, and selecting batteries of cognitive tests tailored to probing an individual’s ability to meet those demands. For this contract, NTI created the NASA Cognitive Assessment Tool (NCAT) to address the cognitive demands of three representative mission activities – extra-vehicular activity (EVA), remote arm manipulation (RMA), and rendezvous/docking (DOCK). A computer-based model, the Person-System-Mission (PSM) model, was also created and used the output of the NCAT to estimate the operational impact of an individual’s current and future cognitive status on the outcome of an activity or mission carried out in space over extended periods (six months or more). Sub-modules evaluating the impact of sleep, rest, and workload were also designed and their integration into the PSM model described.
Fatigue Avoidance Scheduling Tool (FAST)
Considerable research has documented the effects of sleep and circadian rhythm on human cognitive performance. In an Air Force SBIR contract, NTI implemented the Sleep, Activity, Fatigue, and Task Effectiveness (SAFTE) model of Dr. Steven Hursh in a graphical user interface called the Fatigue Avoidance Scheduling Tool (FAST™). Using FAST, one can predict cognitive performance effectiveness based on the timing and amount of sleep an individual received prior to and during a mission.
FAST provides the military planner, mishap investigator, or shift work scheduler the ability to optimize performance under conditions of limited sleep, thus minimizing the need for pharmacological aids while indicating work periods where additional fatigue countermeasures may be necessary. Features included shifting the circadian rhythm for shift work or transmeridian travel, automatic insertion of sleep into a schedule when no data are available, predicting lapses of attention, predicting the impact of stimulants on performance, a window showing levels of fatigue factors affecting performance at any time within a schedule, and prediction of performance variability. The underlying model was validated in a field study using a C-130 aircrew flying from airbases in Japan to the US.
Aircrew Medication and Flight Assessment Program (AMAP)
NTI developed, demonstrated, and delivered a testing program to evaluate the effects of FDA approved therapeutic medications on aviators in order to determine waiver status. NTI developed, and validated a battery of neurocognitive tests which can be administered to an individual aviator off medication, and then again 3-5 days following resumption of his or her drug. Test results are used to determine whether or not the aviator should have a change in medication. The system developed is portable with a test duration goal of less than two work weeks.
To determine the effectiveness of AMAP, an experimental study was conducted. Using a conservative experimental design and subject to limitations on timing resolution imposed by the use of certain “off the shelf” components, the study showed that the battery is able to detect alcohol impairment at BAC levels as low as 0.04. The development of a “Pass/Refer” criterion has been outlined with the goal of correctly identifying impairment in individual patients while minimizing the number of false positives.
NTI developed a multi-faceted assessment tool to be used in the centrifuge facilities at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. The G-Performance Assessment Simulation System (G-PASS) provides training and evaluation of the flight tasks and skills considered critical to safety and mission completion. In addition, G-PASS was used to validate a model of cognitive performance under gravitational stress (G-Tool to Optimize Performance, G-Top) that is also being developed in this contract. This tool dynamically predicts critical flight performance skills while under acceleration force.
OSD Cognitive Test Battery
NTI created an "armory" of traditional and innovative cognitive tests chosen by a panel of subject matter experts to measure various levels of job-related cognitive skills. Fronting the test "armory" is a user-guided interface that allows for one to choose the skills and the levels of those skills that are necessary for a certain job. Based on the input given by the user, a list of tests is generated that matches the demands of the job. Each user-generated battery includes the minimum number of tests needed to address each skill demanded by the job.
This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) was to assess the feasibility of collecting sensor imagery of the air-to-surface weapon-impact event and target environment, just prior to and following weapon impact, to support bomb damage assessment (BDA) analysis in near real-time. Prototype systems and subsystems were designed, fabricated, and tested. Low-cost flight test methodologies were developed and employed, including captive-carry and drop tests using a Cessna 172 aircraft. A new sensor-tracking concept was developed and demonstrated, and in-flight video of the target environment was collected during several drop tests. In the final drop test, a prototype sensor package and deployment mechanism was attached to an inert Mk-82 Low Drag General Purpose (LDGP) bomb and dropped from a contracted A-4N fighter-bomber on a Government-provided weapons training range.
HMD (Helment-Mounted Displays)
At the time of this SBIR, helmet-mounted displays (HMDs) were replacing Head-Down Displays and Head-Up Displays (HUDs) in advanced cockpit interface designs. HMDs offer potential advantages by providing pilots with more direct access to critical visual information, while offering greater flexibility of head movements, less weight, and less consumption of cockpit space. Much of the symbology, functionality, and mechanization found in current HMDs can be traced directly to HUDs. But, because HMDs are decoupled from the longitudinal axis of the aircraft, different kinds of information can be presented. Thus, questions arise concerning the best manner in which to present the additional information, and its interaction with traditional HUD information.
In this contract, NTI defined the human performance requirements for both HUD and HMD interfaces as utilized in military missions, and produced a preliminary HMD symbology design for a no-HUD aircraft. To establish the functional specifications for the interface design, a user-centered design approach employing cognitive work analysis was employed.
Federal Railroad Administration (FAA)
Under contract to the Federal Railroad Administration, NTI, SAIC, the US Air Force, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, New Jersey Transit and railroad consultants partnered to advance the application of FAST for railroad operations. This project analyzed historical schedule data and sleep logs, collected on-the-job performance data to validate FAST, and designed an approach to fatigue and alertness management tailored to specific modes of transportation, starting with railroad applications. As part of the process, FAST was used to predict performance effectiveness under current work schedules and then various hypothetical schedule alternatives were analyzed. Using available data sets that contain alertness data, the performance predictions of the FAST model were successfully validated.
Development of a Test of Cognitive Function for Space Shuttle Research
NTI developed, implemented, and tested a complex test of higher cognitive functions compatible with a laptop computer. This test was incorporated in the NASA PAWS test battery, and was used in the International Microgravity Laboratory (IML-2) shuttle flight which was launched from Cape Kennedy on July 8, 1994, and in a second shuttle flight on August 6, 1996.
Development of a Desk-top Flight Simulator For Assessing Pilot Situation Awareness
In this Phase II SBIR, NTI utilized its proprietary real-time software system to generate realistic flight scenarios for the F-16 aircraft. Multiple measures of situation awareness and cognitive function were embedded into the flight simulation. This allows enhanced training of new pilots and provide a research tool for exploring cognition during pilot performance.
See the USAF Press Release on SAFTE and FAST.
Validation and Customizing of A Performance-Based Test of Impairment
NTI developed an FAA-specific performance test to detect job readiness of employees in safety-sensitive positions. This included validation of expected/required levels of sensitivity, verification of sensitivity to multiple stressors (e.g., alcohol, drugs, fatigue, sleep loss, etc.), verification of test stability and maintainability, and confirmation of compatibility with standard FAA equipment.
Aircrew Team Performance
For eight years, NTI supported aircrew team performance research in the Aircrew Evaluation Sustained Operations Performance (AESOP) facility at the former Brooks Air Force base. Activities included definition of individual and team performance measures and conduct of manned simulation research on the effects of drugs on human performance.
Enhanced Soldier Performance Capabilities Study
This Phase I SBIR included analysis of current workload theories and definition of the factors limiting an individual's capacity to respond to increased task demands. Realizing that the cognitive capacities of the human constitute the newest barrier to efficient personnel utilization, internal "state" and "trait" variables were assessed within a conceptual framework, and a test battery identified to assess performance and enhance required skills.
Development and Validation of a Test Battery for Predicting Air Traffic Controller Trainee Success
Under subcontract to Aerospace Sciences, Inc., NTI developed and implemented a computerized battery of cognitive/behavioral tests predictive of air traffic controller skills in the FAA. This battery was implemented in lieu of the traditional nine-week process previously utilized during FAA air traffic controller trainee selection. The program greatly reduces both the FAA's investment of committed resources and the individual's risk.
Development and Validation of Performance Based Testing
Under contract to a major petrochemical company, NTI designed and produced a five-minute computerized test to serve as a performance screen for skill degradation of workers in safety-sensitive positions. Studies were performed in both flight and driving simulators, under conditions of both alcohol and sobriety.
Systems Design and Implementation of the Tri-Service Standardized Performance Assessment Battery (UTCPAB)
NTI designed and developed software for a standardized performance assessment battery to be used for tri-service research to evaluate the impact on human performance of protective drugs for chemical defense. A unique feature of the software is that it is composed of elementary task program modules so that battery additions can be developed rapidly and easily by researchers.
Certification of Civilian Pilots
NTI evaluated the capabilities of current mini-mental status tests to screen general aviation pilots. NTI reviewed available brief exams to determine their suitability and acceptance by examiners and pilots. In addition, NTI conducted validation efforts in which available clinical mental status exams were tested to assess their sensitivity to various cognitive and psychological deficits, as well as their ability to predict performance on behavioral tests of information processing functions relevant to pilot characteristics.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Human Factors
Over a period of 13 years NTI provided human factors support to a number of FAA programs concerned with the performance of pilots and air traffic controllers. The most significant of these has involved development, operational testing and implementation of Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC).
NTI conducted high fidelity simulation research with air traffic controllers to guide the design of effective ATC services and human computer interfaces, and to evaluate the impact of CPDLC on system performance. In preparation for implementation, NTI participated in the development of CPDLC controller procedures and training as well as research to promote optimal coordination between air traffic controller and aircrew users. NTI conducted Air Traffic effectiveness and Airway Facilities testing during the OT&E process for CPDLC Build I. NTI also completed an operational evaluation of CPDLC Build I at the Miami Air Route Traffic Control Center in support of the Center's decision to declare Initial Daily Use.
This project (funded by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command) extended NTI's model-based, software tool (FAST) that predicts cognitive performance from sleep and naps to include transmeridian travel and to conduct three experiments to assess the effect of pharmacological compounds on sleep and performance in military scenarios of sustained operations. The studies examined 1.Flumazenil (a benzodiazepine antagonist for reversing the effects of zolpidem, a commonly used sleep aid), 2. relative effects of zolpidem and melatonin against placebo for their effects on performance after sudden awakening, and 3. sleep aids and stimulants used in combination on a multi-day, military scenario.