Investigating how cognitive states modulate perfor
at ORAU Workforce Solutions

Date Posted: 4/23/2019

Opportunity Description

Research Opportunitiy Title: Investigating how cognitive states modulate performance using naturalistic sleep history Our research targets understanding and quantification of the nebulous concept of a cognitive state, building on the assumption that these human states will improve our ability to predict fluctuations in task performance. Currently, we operationalize the concept of state by focusing on the enigmatic concept of fatigue. Sleep loss is a well-known, but not well-understood, source of physiological change linked to performance impairment. These performance fluctuations are thought to reflect variability in the underlying physiology that modulates the efficacy and/or efficiency of brain network dynamics that support task performance, but previous research has found significant variability between individuals in their susceptibility to sleep loss. Some of this variability has been accounted for by trait differences measured through questionnaires, but there is burgeoning evidence that a person’s brain network connectivity (both structural and functional) as well as social network structure can also modulate the impact of sleep loss on performance. Furthermore, this negative impact on performance may be greater for social- and emotion-based tasks. In our work, we are currently analyzing a longitudinal study of naturalistic sleep loss over 16 consecutive weeks where participants continue their normal daily activities and sleep habits, but we measure their sleep history objectivity with a wrist actigraph watch and subjectively with standardized sleep diary questions (Pittsburgh sleep diary). In this dataset, we measured performance across five different tasks and a resting state task every two weeks, and we collected a host of physiological measurements, including simultaneous fMRI/EEG, dMRI, eyetracking, heartrate, and blood/saliva. Ongoing analyses examine what timescale of sleep history captures state-dependent effects on performance as well as numerous analyses on how this relationship is modulated by individual differences in brain networks, social networks, and physical activity. We are a multidisciplinary team (Google Scholar:, and we are always seeking new collaborators who can share expertise from other disciplines or research domains that provide new avenues to better understand the relationship between human physiology and environmental context, with the explicit focus to find methods to predict task performance. In the next 30 years, we envision that our science will enable technology that can dynamically adapt to the task needs of human users. Keywords: neuroscience, network science, signal processing, social networks, predicting performance, adaptive technology, enhancing performance, individual differences, human states Click here to apply online

Opportunity Snapshot

About Us

Grooming future leaders in science and technology requires enhancing the skills, knowledge and experience of workers early in their careers. To that end, ORAU (Oak Ridge Associated Universities) assists in connecting the best and most diverse students, recent graduates, faculty and professionals with world-class fellowships, internships and jobs, whether in national laboratories, research institutions, federal government offices or private sector R&D departments.

ORAU works with agencies such as the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) Research Associateship Program (RAP) allow Postdoctoral Fellows, Journeyman Fellows (undergraduate and graduates students and recent graduates), Senior Researchers, and Summer Faculty engage in research initiatives of their own choice, that are compatible with the interests of the government and will potentially contribute to the general effort of the ARL. We work with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to place recent graduates in full-time and part-time jobs in the Office of Research and Development at EPA under the National Student Services Contract. ORAU also works with Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation.

Research opportunities include, but are not limited to the following disciplines: Aerospace Engineering, Anthropology, Archeology, Biology, Biochemistry, Biological Engineering, Biomechanical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Data Science, Electrical Engineering, Environmental Health Risk Assessment, Environmental Science, Entomology, Epidemiology, Ergonomics, Geology, Health Education Mechanical Engineering, Materials Science, Mathematics, Nanotechnology, Photonics, Physics, Public Health Economics, Public Health Policy, Toxicology, and more.

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