Neuroergonomics is an amalgamation of biological, cognitive, and psychological influences on the nervous system we possess. As the name itself suggests, this is the application of neuroscience into ergonomics that predominantly focuses on cognitive factors of the human race, mostly in the industrial sector to measure work performance or even repetitive stress injuries.
Therefore, neuroscience, the study of brain function is usually combined with the study of human factors to infer how emerging technology can be improvised in a way to match the capabilities and limitations of people. This enables a more efficient performance and increases productivity in work settings.
There is a slight orientation to ease the workload for human beings and use their cognitive functions in a “smart” way, by expanding their capabilities and optimizing the functioning between human existence and technology.
Research has been extensively emphasizing this concept to monitor human brain function. This helps in understanding a particular human behavior intensively concerning technology and work- that includes visual attention, mental workload, memory, motor coordination and control, and perceptive as well as cognitive aspects of the brain, which are mostly ingrained in the frontal lobe and has direct effects on the performance.
To study these, noninvasive technologies are adapted to record neurophysiological aspects of the brain's electrical activity via Electroencephalography (EEG), which is the most effective as it records participation in real-life situations and current actions as well (for example, driving).
Applications like magnetoencephalography (MEG), Positron-Emission Tomography (PET), and Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) are also capable of studying this, but the usage of such applications is limited to only the action of the participants. Another important aspect of neuroergonomics is that of psychophysiology, which measures the heart rate, blood pressure, and skin conductance which keeps on changing as per the intensity of the task at hand. Even though this field is quite different from this discipline, it provides us with principles and objectives directly related to performance at work in terms of cognition and motor activity
As far as applications are concerned, the Mental Workload assessment was the first ever to emerge that used fMRI as its basis where mental overload was quantified as per the increased blood flow in the cerebral cortex and the pre-frontal cortex, which is responsible for most of our cognitive functions. It can measure a person’s vigilance and attentiveness at a given period. It was also seen that a decrease in the blood flow resulted in lower performance levels and vigilance as well, which led to the depletion of cognitive resources.
Another novel concept used in this discipline is that of Adaptive Automation. This refers to a human-machine system that measures workload to enhance real-time performance. Using this, the state of confusion in humans can be detected through facial electromyography. It is because of such measures that human-robot systems work much more better and effectively, especially in controlling technological aspects of a system. Participants showed a higher self-concept, and confidence and also perceived lower pressure from the work provided to them using adaptive automation, where machine coordinates with human functioning and contemporary living.
Neuroergonomics assessment has also shown its effectiveness in evaluating psychomotor capacities in individuals with neurocognitive disabilities. It can also be used following a stroke or surgery, where it uses rehabilitation as the basis to measure their performance, and in turn, make it goal-oriented. One of the main applications of neuroergonomics focuses on driving with safety, especially for those with cognitive impairments, and it uses tools like driving simulators, instrumented vehicles as well as part-task simulators.
All in all, development in neuroergonomics and the advent of technology and neuroimaging methods like electroencephalography (EEG), Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS), and neurostimulation approaches like Transcranial Direct-Current Stimulation (tDCS), have made significant progress in recording and altering brain activity without restricting body movements and without limiting research to laboratory environments.
Neuroergonomics has integrated advancements of neuroscience as well as neuroengineering, to provide the flexibility to assess body and brain function in naturalistic work settings bringing neuroscience into everyday life.