Saccadic peak velocity sensitivity to variations in mental workload

Leandro Di Stasi, Rebekka Renner, Peggy Staehr, Jens R. Helmert, Boris M. Velichkovsky, José J. Cañas, Andrés Catena, Sebastian Pannasch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: For research and applications in the field of (neuro)ergonomics, it is of increasing importance to have reliable methods for measuring mental workload. In the present study we examined the hypothesis that saccadic eye movements can be used for an online assessment of mental workload. Methods: Saccadic main sequence (amplitude, duration and peak velocity) was used as a diagnostic measure of mental workload in a virtual driving task with three complexity levels. We tested 18 drivers in the SIRCA driving simulator while their eye movements were recorded. The Wickens' multiple resources model was used as theoretical framework. Changes in mental workload between the complexity levels were evaluated multidimensionally, using subjective rating, performance in a secondary task, and other behavioral indices. Results: Saccadic peak velocity decreased (7.2 visual %s) as the mental workload increased, as measured by scores of mental workload test (15.2 scores) and the increase of the reaction time on the secondary task (46 ms). Discussion: Saccadic peak velocity is affected by variations in mental workload during ecologically valid tasks. We conclude that saccadic peak velocity could be a useful diagnostic index for the assessment of operators' mental workload and attentional state in hazardous environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-417
Number of pages5
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Cognitive load
  • Driving simulator
  • Eye movements
  • Main sequence
  • Risk behavior
  • Warning sound

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