ASTRID - Accompagnement spécifique des travaux de recherches et d’innovation défense

Modulation and assesment of the operator's mental flexibility – MODEX

Submission summary

Recent research in neuroergonomics and security reports in high risk systems have shown that operators’ decision making impairments can be observed in critical situations. In addition it has been suggested that these impairments can originate from a lack of mental flexibility. External factors, such as time pressure, conflicts or workload can interfere with executive functions, the cognitive processes that maintain mental flexibility. These interferences have been proven to be the main cause of numerous accidents in high risk systems with consequent financial and human losses as a result. This kind of impairments is also observed in patients with frontal lobe lesions, albeit with chronic and serious deficits in executive functions without any external pressure. In order to improve mental flexibility, patients can benefit from reeducation based on regular training of executive functions along with a non-invasive brain stimulation. One of the key areas for such processing is the prefrontal cortex. Previous studies have shown however that maintaining a good level of mental flexibility in complex tasks involves a dynamic integration of several brain areas distributed in large networks. These areas in cooperation can be solicited by a multi-modal intervention such as motor-cognitive tasks associated with a transcranial stimulation. These tools could therefore be transposed to the field of high risk systems to help operators maintaining an efficient level of mental flexibility when facing contextual interferences.
The goal of the present project is to develop a new training program and to assess its impact in emergency management, in comparison with current training programs for high risk systems operators. We will develop training programs inspired by the aeronautical and clinical fields. We will also develop new methods to measure long term cerebral modifications induced by these programs.

This goal will be reached by:

1. The identification of the brain networks of mental flexibility. We will compare the functional networks at rest and at work between dysexecutive patients and healthy participants.
2. The assessment of multimodal task effects associated with or without a transcranial brain stimulation. Behavioral (performance in executive tasks) and functional (parameters of cerebral functional connectivity networks at rest and during trainings) measures will be used.
3. The evaluation of the learning transfer to the management of high risk systems. Pilot activity in critical situations will be used as an experimental paradigm.
4. The identification of mental flexibility predictors. The goal will be to find which initial individual’s parameters of brain functional connectivity at rest or during activity could predict an optimal level of mental flexibility after training.

This project aims at improving safety in high risk systems and the quality of life in the brain-damaged population; impact that could eventually extend to the other parts of the population

Project coordination

Sébastien Scannella (Institut Supérieur de l'Aéronautique et de l'Espace)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


CHU Toulouse Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Toulouse
UM-EuroMov Université de Montpellier-EuroMov
Inserm-TONIC Toulouse NeuroImaging Center, Université de Toulouse, INSERM. Service de Médecine Physique et de Réadaptation, Pôle Neurosciences, CHU Toulouse, France.
ISAE-Supaéro Institut Supérieur de l'Aéronautique et de l'Espace

Help of the ANR 298,974 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: December 2017 - 36 Months

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