Effects of hydration on cognitive function of pilots

Mil Med. 2013 Jul;178(7):792-8. doi: 10.7205/MILMED-D-13-00013.


The objective of this study was to examine the effect of fluid intake and possible dehydration on cognitive flight performance of pilots. A repeated-measures, counterbalanced, mixed study design was used to examine differences in working memory, spatial orientation, and cognitive flight performance of 40 randomly selected healthy pilots after having high and low fluid intakes. Serial weights were also analyzed to determine differences in cognitive flight performance of the dehydrated (1-3% weight loss) and hydrated study participants. Results showed flight performance and spatial cognition test scores were significantly (p < 0.05) poorer for pilots who had low fluid intakes and experienced dehydration in comparison to the hydrated pilots. These findings indicate fluid intake differences resulting in dehydration may have safety implications because peak cognitive performance among pilots is critical for flight safety.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aerospace Medicine
  • Body Weight
  • Cognition*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dehydration / complications
  • Dehydration / prevention & control*
  • Dehydration / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Military Personnel*
  • Space Perception
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Young Adult