Neurocognitive engineering for systems development

Kelvin S. Oie, PhD, Kaleb McDowell, PhD

Synesis: A Journal of Science, Technology, Ethics, and Policy 2011; 2:T26-37

The complexity of the current and future security environment presents significant challenges for the warfighter. Advances in information and communications technologies are widely believed to provide a path forward for meeting those challenges, but will also impose new and potentially significant demands on soldier cognitive capabilities. In this paper, we discuss an approach to materiel development, neurocognitive engineering, which seeks to design systems that work in ways that are consistent with the function of the human brain. Neurocognitive systems would both augment the capabilities of the human brain to compensate for and overcome limitations, and capitalize on inherent neurocognitive strengths in those domains where effective technological solutions cannot be attained. The design of such systems will require new understandings of how the brain underlies soldier cognitive performance. We argue that traditional approaches to systems development will not be able to provide such understandings to meet the increased cognitive needs of future systems, and that adopting tools and approaches from the neurosciences provides opportunities to demonstrably improve systems designs.

Key words: materiel development, neuroscience, neurotechnology, cognition, information dominance.