KISSIMMEE, Florida – Can performance deficits be reduced by locking operators to a circadian phase through the use of controlled light exposures?
This was the subject of findings presented by researchers from the Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory (NSMRL) at the Military Health System Research Symposium (MHSRS), August 27 – 30.
Circadian rhythms are basically a biological 24-hour clock that cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals and tracks physical, mental and behavioral changes responding primarily to light and darkness in an environment.
“Service members must be prepared to deploy and perform complex operations during times that are out of sync with their circadian rhythms. Evidence suggests operational performance during circadian misalignment could lead to dangerous or costly errors,” said Dr. Sarah Chabal, NSMRL Warfighter Performance Directorate.
Chabal and other military and industry collaborators completed the first phase of their research demonstrating how light can be used to manage traveling operators’ circadian rhythms and optimize performance. By regulating circadian rhythms through the use of carefully-scheduled scheduled light exposure, the study sought to eliminate the traveling operators’ performance decrements.
Research subjects were flown from Guam to New York while they wore unique, specially designed goggles and glasses to control light exposure and keep their bodies on a desired circadian rhythm. Through the use of the goggles and glasses, the subjects’ circadian phases remained stable throughout travel, despite having traveled through nine time zones.
MHSRS is the Department of Defense's (DoD) premier scientific meeting; a unique collaborative opportunity for military medical care providers, DoD scientists, academia and industry to exchange information on research advancements and health care developments in the areas of combat casualty care, military operational medicine, clinical and rehabilitative medicine and military infectious disease research program.
Naval Medical Research Center’s (NMRC) eight laboratories, including NSMRL, are engaged in a broad spectrum of activity from basic science in the laboratory to field studies at sites in austere and remote areas of the world to operational environments. In support of the Navy, Marine Corps, and joint U.S. warfighters, researchers study infectious diseases; biological warfare detection and defense; combat casualty care; environmental health concerns; aerospace and undersea medicine; medical modeling, simulation and operational mission support; and epidemiology and behavioral sciences.
NMRC and the laboratories deliver high-value, high-impact research products to support and protect today's deployed warfighters. At the same time researchers are focused on the readiness and well-being of future forces.