Changes Since the Previous Review
Two changes are noteworthy. First, the program is now referred to as “Translational Neuroscience” rather than simply “Neuroscience.” This is not mere jargon, but reflects a continuing refinement of HRED’s goals in neuroscience. The goal of the translational neuroscience program at HRED is to integrate modern neuroscience with human factors, psychology, and engineering to enhance our understanding of soldier function and behavior in complex operational settings. Neuroscience is a vast field, and it has been imperative for HRED to concentrate its efforts on specific problems with potential Army relevance. The second notable change is the arrival of a senior scientist in neuroscience, who is also an ARL Fellow and whose background brings expertise in computational methods of signal analysis and neural modeling to HRED.
Accomplishments and Advancements
Over the past 2 years, translational neuroscience has made impressive strides at HRED. At the time of the previous review, the neuroscience group was in its promising infancy. Progress during the past 24 months, driven by strong leadership, provides a model for how a new group should be developed at a government research laboratory. During the past 5 years, ARL’s neuroscience group has grown into the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) largest internal nonmedical translational neuroscience research effort. A central task during this period has been to refine the neuroscience group’s vision in a way that allows it to be Army-relevant while continuing its trajectory toward being a neuroscience laboratory on a par with strong university research programs.
To develop this Army-relevant, translational research capability, the group has concentrated its efforts on three internal research thrusts:
1. Brain-computer interaction technologies. What kinds of neurotechnologies have potential for broad DoD and civilian impact? Where is basic research required before translational research will be possible?
2. Real-world neuroimaging. What aspects of brain function can be usefully monitored outside of the laboratory setting? What are the technologies that are best adapted for this purpose? For example, would it be practical to record aspects of EEG from a soldier as he/she is driving on a mission? Would there be reliable biomarkers for stress or fatigue in the signals?
3. Individual differences and neurocognitive performance. Assessing the different capabilities of soldiers is important if those soldiers are to be optimally matched to tasks. What is the role of neuroscientific measures in assessing individual differences?
There are a palpable energy and enthusiasm among the strong mix of early-career (HRED has added more than 10 postdoctoral researchers) and mid-career scientists. They seem to work well together and seem quite well connected with academic neuroscience research labs. As noted, above, a senior researcher has now been added to this mix. Connections to the broader scientific community include partnerships with more than 20 national and international universities and companies through programs including the Cognition and Neuroergonomics Collaborative Technology Alliance (C&N CTA) and the Institute for Collaborative Biotechnology (ICB).
The neuroscience group is to be commended for its excellent publication record. While concerns about publication have been raised in the review of other HRED groups, the neuroscience group has