Ph.D. Candidacy Exam - Closed-Loop Human-Computer Interface for the Optimization of Learning
Date: August 25, 2005
Time: 2:00 PM
Location: Bossone Research Enterprise Center, Room: 303
Advisors: Banu Onaral, Ph.D. and Scott Bunce, Ph.D.
As the neurological underpinnings of learning and memory yield to scientific investigation, the capacity to use this knowledge to enhance learning and memory is an important next step. The objective of this proposal is to develop a closed-loop human-computer interface system that utilizes real-time neurophysiological input from the user's brain to increase associative learning. The system will optimize learning by monitoring known neurophysiological and neuroimaging markers of memory processes in real time and presenting stimuli at times when the brain is most receptive to new information. In addition, the system will monitor these neurophysiological markers to determine if sufficient processing resources have been devoted to study to optimize the potential for learning. More precisely, we expect that memory for specific events can be increased by using electroencephalographic (EEG) measures of theta power to: 1) present stimuli at times when the brain is most prepared to receive new information, and 2) to provide neurofeedback to the learner indicating when a given stimulus has been sufficiently studied so as to predict accurate recall.
The proposed system will utilize an integrated sensory output from both EEG and functional near-infrared (fNIR) technology. Combined fNIR/EEG offers a number of opportunities in the areas of monitoring of brain activity during real-world tasks and neurorehabilitation. Technological advances in miniaturization allows for comfortable, portable, wireless units that can be worn for extended periods of time in a variety of situations, thereby allowing assessment of brain activation in a wide variety of situations. Merged EEG/fNIR should allow for a more powerful form of human-computer interface by providing simultaneous information about both oscillatory EEG activity and more precise information about the level of activation in different brain areas (i.e., from fNIR)
This system has potential applications within standard educational settings and distance/online learning programs, as well as for rehabilitation (e.g., traumatic brain injuries) and mental health (e.g., Attention Deficit Disorder) settings. The system could be used in educational settings to help students derive the optimal benefit from their lessons by presenting information when their brain are optimized to receive it, or to let them know when they have studied an item long enough to retain it. A similar system could also be used in occupations that require considerable mnemonic processing in a computer interface, or in occupations where “interrupts” - information that must be attended to - are crucial, e.g., air traffic controllers, command and control system controllers (e.g., battleships or cruise ships), etc. In the long term, the ability to use the neural correlates of learning and memory in a closed-loop system may also allow for the improvement of capacities where those capacities have been compromised.
The Bossone Research Enterprise Center (formerly Commonwealth Hall) is located on the south side of Market Street, between 31st and 32nd Streets.