Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Targeted Neuroplasticity Training (TNT) program (TNT)
PI: Kevin Otto (BME)
Augmented learning rates and capacities are of significant interest yet remains a significant challenge to reliably obtain in healthy, normal adults. Manipulation of neuromodulatory brain systems has been shown via pharmaceuticals to enhance attention, perception, memory, and other cognitive abilities; yet, these mechanisms act systemically and lead to non-specific effects and uncontrollable side-effects. Direct nervous system interfaces offer an intriguing cognitive enhancement alternative because of the precise spatial and temporal control opportunities. Direct central nervous system interfaces are difficult to realize due to the necessary invasiveness and ultimate unreliability. On the contrary, peripheral nervous system neuromodulation is possible via non-invasive transcutaneous stimulation; we are proposing a careful pre-clinical and clinical evaluation of peripheral neuromodulation applied during challenging cognitive behavioral tasks. The ultimate realization of reliable, effective, non-invasive peripheral neural modulation will require careful science and engineering approaches incorporating knowledge of the relevant and critical biological, physical, and chemical factors, especially their interrelationship. Our approach uses a comprehensive strategy to assess the feasibility and efficacy of cognitive enhancement based on the biology and biophysics of direct and indirect peripheral neuromodulation. Our strategy involves a self-informing approach by parallel, simultaneous development of invasive neuromodulation in animal models.