Reaction test revealed impaired performance at 6.0 atm abs but not at 1.9 atm abs in professional divers

Undersea Hyperb Med. 2013 Jan-Feb;40(1):33-9.


In order to evaluate the effects of ambient pressure on reaction and movement times we investigated 60 professional divers by a computerized test (Reaction Test). The experiments were carried out four times in a hyperbaric chamber: prior to pressure, at 6.0 and 1.9 atm abs and after decompression. Reaction time varied from 202 to 443 milliseconds (275 +/- 42 ms), but the individual levels remained similar. The reaction time increased between precompression and 6.0 atm abs (p < 0.05), decreased between 6.0 and 1.9 atm abs (p < 0.05) and remained at the original level at 1.9 and 1.0 atm abs after decompression. Ten divers had an increase of more than 1SD in the reaction time at 6.0 atm abs. The number of mistakes was small and not influenced by elevation of pressure. Further, the movement time remained unchanged throughout the experiment. We conclude that the response time increases due to ambient pressure and the increase in simple reaction time is detectable in professional divers at 6.0 atm not at 1.9 atm abs. At the same time accuracy stays constant. We speculate that our findings are caused by nitrogen narcosis in some divers.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Atmospheric Pressure*
  • Decompression / methods
  • Diagnosis, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Diving / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Young Adult