Stress can impact multiple psychological and physiological human domains. In order to better understand the effect of stress on cognitive performance, and whether this effect is related to an autonomic response to stress, the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) was used as a testing platform along with a 2-Choice Reaction Time Task. When considering the nature and importance of Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs) work and the fact that they are subjected to high levels of stress, this study was conducted with a sample of ATCs (n
= 11). Linear Heart Rate Variability (HRV) features were extracted from ATCs electrocardiogram (ECG) acquired using a medical-grade wearable ECG device (Vital Jacket®
(1-Lead, Biodevices S.A, Matosinhos, Portugal)). Visual Analogue Scales (VAS) were also used to measure perceived stress. TSST produced statistically significant changes in some HRV parameters (Average of normal-to-normal intervals (AVNN), Standard Deviation of all NN (SDNN), root mean square of differences between successive rhythm-to-rhythm (RR) intervals (RMSSD), pNN20, and LF/HF) and subjective measures of stress, which recovered after the stress task. Although these short-term changes in HRV showed a tendency to normalize, an impairment on cognitive performance was evident. Despite that participant’s reaction times were lower, the accuracy significantly decreased, presenting more errors after performing the acute stress event. Results can also point to the importance of the development of quantified occupational health (qOHealth) devices to allow for the monitoring of stress responses.
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