Brown University's Professor Philip Lieberman and his team of researchers completed last week using Palm(TM) Tungsten(TM) T handhelds to test the thinking abilities of climbers.
In his third consecutive year of his one-of-a-kind study, Lieberman, a professor of cognitive and linguistic sciences, and four research assistants studied the effect of the lack of oxygen -- a condition called hypoxia -- on Everest climbers' abilities to think clearly and understand the meaning of a sentence. Funded by the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI), through NASA, the research has developed a method that can detect impaired decision-making ability by means of computer-implemented analysis of a person's speech. This will allow remote monitoring of crew members' performance in deep-space missions where exposure to cosmic rays could cause brain dysfunction similar to that resulting from hypoxia. The Everest research points to voice-monitoring techniques that could be used to alert people to life-threatening breakdowns in decision-making in other critical situations. The present technique developed by Lieberman and his colleagues already has proven useful in evaluating new methods for the treatment of Parkinson's Disease, in which similar, more extreme and permanent brain damage occurs.