Your brain on Google Glass

From Drexel University:

IMAGE: The fNIR sensor, which is placed around the forehead like a headband, uses LEDs that shine near-infrared light to sample from 16 brain areas. Researchers use the technology to monitor… view more

Credit: Drexel University

“Smart” eyewear — that can integrate augmented reality with your own, feed you live information about your surroundings and even be used in the operating room — is no longer the stuff of science fiction.

Wearable displays also have the potential to enhance cognitive ergonomics, or more simply, make it less mentally taxing to complete certain tasks. But before technologies like Google Glass become a part of daily life, engineers need a way to monitor exactly how they affect the brain in everyday situations.

At Drexel University, researchers have developed a portable system that can do just that. The system uses functional near-infrared spectroscopy, or fNIRS, to measure a person’s brain activity.

The applications for fNIRS are seemingly endless — from training air traffic controllers and drone operators, to studying how students with disabilities learn best, or why different people are more receptive to certain Super Bowl commercials.

“This is a new trend called neuroergonomics. It’s the study of the brain at work — cognitive neuroscience plus human factors,” said Hasan Ayaz, PhD, associate research professor in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems and a member of Drexel’s CONQUER Collaborative. The phrase was coined by the late Raja Parasuraman, a former professor at George Mason University and study co-author.

Until now, most studies involving fNIRS took place indoors. Though participants wearing the system could move around freely while being monitored, they were still observed within laboratory confines.

A group of Drexel biomedical engineers, in collaboration with researchers at George Mason University, have …

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