As the pace of modern life accelerates, fatigue as a result of staying awake for extended hours may become more common.
A study in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America describes a novel method to acoustically analyze the effects of fatigue on the central nervous system as revealed through speech.
According to researcher Dr. Adam Vogel of the University of Melbourne, Australia, the findings may be significant to workers, employers, public safety officials, and military leaders who are concerned with managing fatigue over long shifts.
“There is increasing interest in the development of objective non-invasive systems that can be used to assist the identification and management of fatigue in both health and workplace settings,” said Vogel, an acoustician.
Measuring fatigue by analyzing a person’s speech and quantifying any changes from their normal, rested speech may enable doctors to make objective decisions about a person’s ability to function in a work environment.
It may also be a useful tool for monitoring fatigue in clinical trials where alertness is a key measured outcome.
The Australian study involved 18 young adults who provided speech samples (sustained vowels, reading, counting and reading tasks) every two hours.
Vogel and his colleagues looked at components of speech such as length of pauses and total time to complete a spoken task. Their results showed that as fatigue progresses, speech slows, variations in pitch increase and tone diminishes. Their conclusion is that we have less control over the muscles that produce speech as we become more and more tired.
And though the study did not seek to measure conviviality, Vogel made some of his own observations. “Although remaining awake for 24 hours is physically and mentally exhausting, it actually is a great way to make new friends,” he said.
“Most of them just entertained themselves between testing by watching movies, reading or talking amongst themselves.”
Source: American Institute of Physics