Modern operational environments can place significant demands on a service member's cognitive resources, increasing the risk of errors or mishaps due to overburden. The ability to monitor cognitive burden and associated performance within operational environments is critical to improving mission readiness. As a key step toward a field-ready system, we developed a simulated marksmanship scenario with an embedded working memory task in an immersive virtual reality environment. As participants performed the marksmanship task, they were instructed to remember numbered targets and recall the sequence of those targets at the end of the trial. Low and high cognitive load conditions were defined as the recall of three- and six-digit strings, respectively. Physiological and behavioral signals recorded included speech, heart rate, breathing rate, and body movement. These features were input into a random forest classifier that significantly discriminated between the low- and high-cognitive load conditions (AUC = 0.94). Behavioral features of gait were the most informative, followed by features of speech. We also showed the capability to predict performance on the digit recall (AUC = 0.71) and marksmanship (AUC = 0.58) tasks. The experimental framework can be leveraged in future studies to quantify the interaction of other types of stressors and their impact on operational cognitive and physical performance.
Purpose: Prior investigations suggest that simultaneous performance of more than 1 motor-oriented task may exacerbate speech motor deficits in individuals with Parkinson disease (PD). The purpose of the current investigation was to examine the extent to which performing a low-demand manual task affected the connected speech in individuals with and without PD. Method: Individuals with PD and neurologically healthy controls performed speech tasks (reading and extemporaneous speech tasks) and an oscillatory manual task (a counterclockwise circle-drawing task) in isolation (single-task condition) and concurrently (dual-task condition). Results: Relative to speech task performance, no changes in speech acoustics were observed for either group when the low-demand motor task was performed with the concurrent reading tasks. Speakers with PD exhibited a significant decrease in pause duration between the single-task (speech only) and dual-task conditions for the extemporaneous speech task, whereas control participants did not exhibit changes in any speech production variable between the single- and dual-task conditions. Conclusions: Overall, there were little to no changes in speech production when a low-demand oscillatory motor task was performed with concurrent reading. For the extemporaneous task, however, individuals with PD exhibited significant changes when the speech and manual tasks were performed concurrently, a pattern that was not observed for control speakers. Supplemental Material: https://doi.org/10.23641/asha. 8637008
Purpose: The purpose of the current study was to characterize clear speech production for speakers with and without Parkinson disease (PD) using several measures of working vowel space computed from frequently sampled formant trajectories. Method: The 1st 2 formant frequencies were tracked for a reading passage that was produced using habitual and clear speaking styles by 15 speakers with PD and 15 healthy control speakers. Vowel space metrics were calculated from the distribution of frequently sampled formant frequency tracks, including vowel space hull area, articulatory–acoustic vowel space, and multiple vowel space density (VSD) measures based on different percentile contours of the formant density distribution. Results: Both speaker groups exhibited significant increases in the articulatory–acoustic vowel space and VSD10, the area of the outermost (10th percentile) contour of the formant density distribution, from habitual to clear styles. These clarity-related vowel space increases were significantly smaller for speakers with PD than controls. Both groups also exhibited a significant increase in vowel space hull area; however, this metric was not sensitive to differences in the clear speech response between groups. Relative to healthy controls, speakers with PD exhibited a significantly smaller VSD90, the area of the most central (90th percentile), densely populated region of the formant space. Conclusions: Using vowel space metrics calculated from formant traces of the reading passage, the current work suggests that speakers with PD do indeed reach the more peripheral regions of the vowel space during connected speech but spend a larger percentage of the time in more central regions of formant space than healthy speakers. Additionally, working vowel space metrics based on the distribution of formant data suggested that speakers with PD exhibited less of a clarity-related increase in formant space than controls, a trend that was not observed for perimeter-based measures of vowel space area.