Gaining new insights into the behaviors of adversaries.
Opportunities arising from the four research trends—and the many others yet to surface—will continue to revolutionize our understanding of the embodied mind and foster practical applications in civilian, commercial, and military affairs.
Neuroscience research and applications are advancing at a lightning pace, and the Army needs a reliable way to monitor progress in areas of nonmilitary neuroscience research and technology development. Direct Army investment in these areas will probably not be warranted unless an Army-unique application of substantial value emerges. Nonetheless, the Army should stay abreast of what is happening in these areas and have mechanisms in place to leverage the research results and adapt new technology for Army applications.
Recommendation 16. The Army should establish a group consisting of recognized leaders in neuroscience research in both the academic and private sectors to track progress in nonmilitary neuroscience R&D that could be relevant to Army applications. To ensure that the monitoring group remains sensitive to and abreast of Army needs, the membership should also include Army civilians and soldiers whose backgrounds and interests would suit them for meaningful participation in the group’s deliberations.
A number of the recommendations reflect a common theme that may challenge traditional Army approaches but that offers great potential for increasing Army capabilities. Recommendations 2 (on training), 3 (on decision making), and 4 (on soldier stress response) all point to a larger theme that is emerging from current neuroscience research: Individual differences in behavior, cognition, and performance of skilled tasks are as deeply rooted in the neural structure of individuals as differences in strength, stamina, height, or perceptual acuity are rooted in their physiology. This common theme, as it pertains to opportunities for the Army to apply neuroscience, is explicitly explored in Chapter 8 of the report as a significant long-term research trend: using individual variability to optimize unit performance.
Neuroscience is establishing the role that neural structures play in the individual variability observed in cognition, memory, learning behaviors, resilience to stressors, and decision-making strategies and styles. Individual differences among soldiers have consequences for many Army applications and can influence operational readiness and the ability of Army units to perform assigned tasks optimally. Individual variability is in many ways at odds with the conventional approach of training soldiers to be interchangeable components of a unit.
Recommendation 17. Using insights from neuroscience on the sources and characteristics of individual variability, the Army should consider how to take advantage of the variability rather than ignoring it or attempting to eliminate it from a soldier’s behavior patterns in performing assigned tasks. The goal should be to seek ways to use individual variability to improve unit readiness and performance.