Past Issues

Does Pre-fl ight Cigarette Smoking Affect the Military Aviator’s Attention at a Simulated Altitude of 18,000 Feet Created by a Hypobaric Chamber

Yu-Ming Cheng, Ching-Hui Loh, Chien-Bai Sha, Yi-Chang Wu, Hui-Nien Yang, Wei-An Lin

Objectives: Cigarette smoking affects performance and attention, but its relationship
is unclear. Aviators require sustained, focused attention to maintain aviation
safety, but they are frequently exposed to high-altitude environments. In this
study, we intended to investigate whether pre-fl ight cigarette smoking would affect
the attention of military aviators at a simulated altitude of 18,000 feet created by a
hypobaric chamber. Methods: We evaluated 96 (72 smokers and 24 non-smokers)
aviators with the visual search and the incompatibility task. All participants took
part in two tasks in a hypobaric chamber at ground level. We randomly chose 48
participants in the smoking group to receive a piece of cigarette with a nicotine
dose of 1.0 mg; the other participants in the smoking group (n = 24) received a
piece of cigarette with a nicotine dose of 0.1 mg (smoker group 2). After we gave
the smoking participants a piece of cigarette, the smokers who received the 1.0 mg
nicotine dose were equally divided into two groups (smoker groups 1 and 3; n = 24
each). All aviators except those in smoker group 3 (at ground level for the whole
procedure) were subjected to altitude of 18,000 feet. Participants undertook the
two tasks again. Results: In smokers, cigarette smoking was found to have a positive
effect on reaction time in both visual search and incompatibility tasks, regardless
of altitude. The trend was not clear about attitude and attention since no difference
was found among smoker group 1 and 3. Conclusion: Cigarette smoking
facilitates attention during the visual search and incompatibility tasks in smokers
at 18,000 feet of altitude.
Key Word cigarettes, visual search, incompatibility, hypobaric chamber
Editorial Committe, Taiwanese Journal of Psychiatry
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