C4iSR: Joint & Common Equipment

AFRL finds brain stimulation technology boosts multi-tasking performance

24 August 2018

Halo Neuroscience’s Halo Sport TDCS headset. Source: Halo Neuroscience

The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has disclosed study results on the effects of transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS) on special forces operators and machine-facing personnel, finding the technologies can indeed increase performance for certain tasks.

The evaluation, which featured Halo Neuroscience’s Halo Sport TDCS headset, was conducted by AFRL on 8 May 2018 with the aim of comparing the effects of TDCS on operators’ multi-tasking capabilities by comparing the input of Electroencephalography (EEG) electrodes with Halo Sport technology as well as a ‘null condition’ control. Results from the evaluation were revealed to Jane’s in August.

Initially designed to support the rehabilitation of wounded personnel, TDCS technology is being explored to potentially optimse combat performance, for example, for special forces in close quarter battle.

Conducted by AFRL’s 711th Human Performance Wing/Applied Neuroscience Branch, tests were designed to consider the human operator’s ability to actively perform more than one task simultaneously.

According to AFRL consortium research fellow Justin Nelson, personnel enduring long working hours monitoring and locating targets can suffer from performance decline due to the monotonous nature of the work. Specifically, Nelson warned of “information overload and cognitive bottlenecking,” while referring to air traffic controllers, cyber defence operators, and remotely piloted aircraft operators.

AFRL’s test evaluated TDCS administered to the brain’s motor cortex during a multi-tasking, with EEG electrodes competing against Halo Sport TDCS solutions and the ‘null condition’ control. Tests were conducted over varying periods of time, ranging up to 20 minutes.

Five groups of fifteen personnel were tasked to conduct system monitoring, targeting, resource management, and communications serials during the test phase, with Halo Sport wearers benefiting from a 10% increase in throughput versus ‘null condition’ wearers. Differences between Halo Sport and EEG technology were marginal and AFRL said excitement of the ‘left primary motor cortex’ and ‘inhibition of the right motor cortex’ resulted in superior multi-tasking performance.

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