Today we take a closer look at one of the primary objectives of the Pangaea Himalayan Expedition—real-time physiological monitoring and research conducted by experts from the Mayo Clinic's Extreme Environmental Human Performance Program. Mayo researcher Andy Miller and Dr. Bryan Taylor as they discuss the monitoring methods being used on the expedition and the rationale behind the research.
The goal of the Mayo Clinic's research is to conduct live physiological monitoring of the expedition team throughout the trip using cutting-edge field monitoring technologies. By tracking the physiology of team members as they acclimatize and ascend a 6,000-meter (20,000-foot) peak, the Clinic seeks to better understand how the human body responds to such an extreme environment in the hopes of ultimately improving human performance in similar situations.
The Mayo researchers regularly monitor a number of physiological factors twice a day—in the morning prior to breakfast and in the evening prior to dinner. These include body weight, fluid intake and output, heart rate, and blood oxygen saturation levels. Monitoring is conducted through the use of a number of non-invasive, high-tech devices worn by participants throughout the trek, including:
- The Hidalgo Equivital EQ-01, a robust, water resistant, chest-strap style device that is easily applied and worn for up to 10 days to monitor heart rate, respiration rate, core temperature, skin temperature, galvanic skin response, activity, body orientation, and oxygen saturation.
- Sense-Core Sensatex shirts that utilize a biomedical smart fabric that captures ECG, respiration, oxygen saturation, core body temperature, kinetic measurements, and activity classification.
- The Corventis Piix, an unobtrusive, water resistant device that adheres to the skin and automatically detects, records, and transmits ECG, heart rate, heart rate variability, activity, posture, respiration rate, and body fluid status for up to 7 days.
- The BodyMedia SenseWear Pro, a small device worn on the upper arm, primarily used to measure energy expenditure for up to 10 days.
Expedition team members undergoing the monitoring program also complete questionnaires about their overall well being and their perceived exertion during the day, including the Lake Louise acute mountain sickness questionnaire. All of this information is factored along with altitude gained or lost and distance traveled during the course of each day.
In addition to this standard monitoring, expedition team members periodically perform a standard 'step test' exercise in time to a metronome set at 60, 120, then 180 beats per minute. By measuring physiological factors such as gas exchange, heart rate, oxygen saturation, blood pressure, and cardiac output before, during, and after the exercise, researchers are able to gauge how well an individual is acclimatizing to high altitude.
Through gaining a better understanding of the factors that contribute to altitude sickness, the Mayo Clinic hopes to stimulate the development of new techniques and technologies that could someday help to prevent or delay its onset.