J.B. West, F.L. Powell, A.M. Luks (Division of Physiology School of Medicine, UCSD)
November 7, 1997
Keywords: high altitude, medical, hypoxia, oxygen enrichment
The NRAO MMA radiotelescope will be situated at an altitude of approximately 5000 m and numerous studies have shown that this altitude impairs cognitive function, including causing more rapid fatigue, more arithmetical and other types of errors, reduced short- term memory, impaired hand-eye coordination, lower productivity, and changes of mood. All these alterations are caused by oxygen deprivation (hypoxia). We propose to add oxygen to the air- conditioning of the control room to raise the oxygen concentration from 21 to 27%. This is equivalent to reducing the altitude of the facility to 3200 m, which is easily tolerated. The feasibility of measuring the effects of oxygen enrichment on cognitive function was tested at the University of California White Mountain Research Station (altitude 3800 m) where the conditions for ambient air breathing at 5000 m were simulated by reducing the oxygen concentration in the room from 21 to 18%. A comprehensive package of cognitive tests was tested. A full scale investigation will be carried out in the summer of 1998.
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