The ICB Cognitive Neuroscience task order uses neuroscience tools and innovative behavioral paradigms to advance our fundamental understanding of neural systems that support cognitive processes that are particularly relevant to challenges faced by the soldier. There are four unique aspects to this basic research program.
The first research area emphasizes decision-making across multiple, integrated levels of analysis. Most research in human decision-making emphasizes the capacity for risk/reward tradeoffs in a neuroeconomic framework. Within the ICB Cognitive Neuroscience task order, decision-making research also considers the role of sensory noise and target detection, the capacity to retrieve evidence from memory, the ability to consider the influence of physical effort and the role of group thinking on the decision-making process. A critical and unique aspect of this research is the study of neural systems that allow for adaptive decision-making when decision thresholds should be adjusted appropriately. In parallel, new methods for measuring brain activity and novel analysis methods are used to identify specific cognitive components in decision-making. These include sensing, building confidence, detecting uncertainty and selecting an action. This has led to the development of cutting edge methods in machine learning across multiple imaging modalities such as functional magnetic resonance imaging and electroencephalography.
The second core component of ICB Cognitive Neuroscience research addresses learning and adaptation in human performers. Advanced computational methods in neuroscience are used to understand when learning occurs and what brain systems are used for learning, and to define conditions of better acquisition as well as effective unlearning.
The third component identifies individual differences of brain structure and function as well as genetic factors that lead to variability of performance. The ICB is a world leader in this effort. In addition to understanding basic physiologic differences, there is a growing effort at the ICB to also identify neural substrates that provide cognitive resilience in the setting of stress, fatigue work overload, and neurotrauma.
The fourth research area draws on expertise in complex systems and control and dynamical systems so that state-of-the-art analysis methods can be shared with and employed by our Army collaborators.