Human Health, Resilience & Performance


Humans operating in high consequence environments require peak performance. Warfighters also operate in environments where extreme heat, cold, depth and altitude negatively impact physical, psychological, cognitive, and team performance. Keys to success include an effective stress response as well as quick and effective decision making in the face of extreme environmental conditions.

IHMC Research Scientists are developing and validating human-centered technologies that measure stress and mitigate extremes that negatively impact individual and team performance and resilience. With combined expertise in undersea, altitude, aviation, space, cognitive, and elite physical performance, our researchers are able to provide a holistic view of the human response, leading to operationally-relevant strategies that maximize performance and resilience. The ultimate goal of this research is to develop and maintain the well-being and specialized skillsets of the warfighter and extreme environment operator.

Research on Metabolic Strategies for Optimized Performance and Resilience is motivated by a growing body of evidence pointing to the application of nutritional approaches that provide neuroprotection, maximize energy stores and neuromuscular recovery, and lead to overall resilience. IHMC scientists are investigating the application and optimal regimen of these metabolic strategies for improving cognitive and physical performance, in addition to protecting against potential injury in humans operating in extreme environments (e.g., cold water and high altitude).

Multi-Omics Analysis of Human Performance involves objective measurement of the adaptive and pathophysiological changes induced by military operations and training. These investigations serve to elucidate molecular, cellular, tissue, individual and team level changes associated with physical, physiological, and psychological stressors. Genomics, epigenomics, proteomics, metabolomics, and microbiomics are being applied to create an intricate and well-informed picture of the underlying mechanisms of individual and team response to stress, which could lead to high impact diagnostics and interventions. Machine learning algorithms developed by our researchers are also utilized to analyze multi-system data and identify the molecular, cellular, physiological, and performance changes associated with extreme exposures.

Research on Brain Physiology in Response to Extreme Environments is critical when developing neuroprotective strategies. IHMC researchers are developing and applying novel technologies to create an understanding of eye and eardrum movement, brain lymphatic function, cerebral blood flow, and brain oxygenation to study how the brain response to extremes such as hypoxia and simulated microgravity. Developing effective strategies to diagnose, protect against, and treat pathologic changes to the brain are the ultimate goal of these investigations.

Developing and validating Aviation-Related Stress Monitoring and Mitigation Strategies is also critically important for extreme operators. Due to the dramatic rise in unexplained physiological episodes (UPEs) experienced across tactical aviation, the United States, Air Force, and Navy are currently developing and fielding UPE mitigation tools to monitor and manage operational stressors such as hypoxia, hypocapnia, thermal stress, fatigue motion sickness, spatial disorientation, and cognitive workload. Current IHMC projects are addressing these concerns by evaluating performance assessment technology to be used in training and in-flight to detect and control these issues, as well as behavioral techniques to improve physiological function.