SPOKANE  – Bryan Vila, a senior researcher associated with WSU’s Sleep and Performance Research Center, has been awarded a $610,000 grant by the Department of Defense’s Office of Naval Research to expand the center’s Spokane-based facilities with a Critical Job Tasks Simulation Laboratory.

Scheduled to be operational in 2009, the new facility will be fully integrated with the existing residential sleep laboratory.

The combined facilities will provide researchers with a controlled, yet realistic operational environment to study the effects of sleep and sleep deprivation on skills critical to the success and survival of police officers, military personnel, first responders and others working in 24/7 operational settings.
 
“With the addition of this new lab, we’ll have a full-fidelity sleep/wake/work research facility that allows us to bridge the gap between controlled studies that rely on abstract laboratory tasks and naturalistic field studies,” said center director Gregory Belenky. They believe this will be the only such resource in the world.
 
Belenky  and center assistant director, Hans Van Dongen, will collaborate with Vila, a former police officer and Marine who is currently a professor of criminal justice.
 
He specializes in police fatigue issues and will use the new lab to study the impact of sleep deprivation on the performance of experienced police officers.
 
The grant funding was awarded as part of the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP).
 
It will pay for simulation equipment that will help the researchers understand the impact of sleep loss in both routine operations and close combat situations.
 
Planned equipment purchases include deadly-force judgment training simulators to replicate violent encounters, driving simulators, eye-tracking devices that measure situational awareness and decision-making time and smart garments that unobtrusively collect physiological data.
 
This system of tools will enable researchers to simultaneously monitor a wide range of physiological and behavioral variables, including alertness, situational awareness, arousal management, executive functions and communication skills.
 
The simulation lab will also serve as a test bed for evaluating the effectiveness of training simulators widely used by police and the military.

“Our goal is for this lab to contribute to the performance, health and safety of those who serve and protect us—as well as the safety of those they serve,” said Vila.

For more information on the WSU Spokane Sleep and Performance Research Center visit http://www.wsu.edu/sprc.