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Cognitive behavior on a continuous performance task following short-term firefighting activity.

Mattila-TA; Petruzzello-SJ; Horn-G; Smith-DL
Med Sci Sports Exerc 2011May; 43(5)(Suppl 1):707
Firefighting (FF) involves high levels of physical exertion in extreme environmental conditions, but how FF activity impacts decision-making ability is unknown. PURPOSE: Investigate effects of short-term FF activity on information processing ability. METHODS: Male FFs (N=20; M age=25.7+/-5.2 yrs) completed 18 min of simulated FF activity (2 min of stair climbing, forcible entry, searching, advancing a line with 2 min rest before and after each) in full turnout gear in a training structure with live fires, completing two trials on separate days. Performance (reaction time, RT) on 50 trials of a Continuous Performance Test (CPT) was used to assess decision-making. Frequent stimuli (digits 1 - 8; 80% of trials) and rare stimuli (digits 0, 9; 20% of trials) were presented via computer for 150 msec every 1 sec in random order. Psychological (energy, tiredness; AD ACL) as well as CPT performance were obtained immediately before FF activities, immediately after, and 2 hours post-recovery. RESULTS: It was previously reported that RTs were significantly faster immediately following activity (-25.2 msec), and then returned to pre-activity level by 2 hrs post-activity. At baseline, self-rated Energy was significantly associated with RT (r= -0.41, P=0.076) and variability (r= -0.53, P=0.017) of RT for all trials. FFs with greater baseline Energy had faster RTs and less variable RTs at baseline. Baseline Energy was also associated with post-FF activity RT performance, with faster RTs on all trials (r= -0.52, P=0.018), particularly on frequent trials (r= -0.55, P=0.012). A similar pattern was seen for self-rated Tiredness: greater baseline tiredness associated with slower RTs (r= 0.52, P=0.018) and greater variability (i.e., larger SDs; r= 0.66, P=0.001) on all post-FF activity trials, but especially for the frequent trials (RTs: r= 0.55, P=0.011; SDs: r= 0.69, P=0.001). RTs to frequent stimuli were significantly faster than to rare stimuli, at all time points (-68.69, -69.52, & -81.2 msec, respectively). RTs to any rare stimulus were slower, regardless of where the stimulus appeared. CONCLUSIONS: Simulated FF activity resulted in significant changes in decision-making ability. In general, RT slowed following FF activity. Average RT to rare stimuli was consistently slower than to frequent stimuli.
Fire-fighting; Physiology; Physiological-effects; Physical-capacity; Physical-fitness; Physical-reactions; Fire-fighters; Exposure-levels; Risk-factors; Environmental-exposure; Environmental-hazards; Mental-fatigue; Mental-health; Mental-stress; Mental-processes; Psychology; Psychological-stress; Psychological-responses
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Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
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University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign