UTSA joins in Army brain monitoring research


by Wendy Rigby / KENS 5


Posted on October 25, 2010 at 2:03 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 4 at 1:06 AM

SAN ANTONIO -- The University of Texas at San Antonio has been awarded more than $2 million from the Army Research Laboratory. Computer scientists here are helping come up with a way to monitor brains with the goal of helping soldiers in combat focus better.

Soldiers under stress have to make difficult, strategic, life-or-death decisions under less than perfect circumstances, jostling around in a tank or dodging enemy fire.
“The modern soldier operates under a great deal of stress,” commented UTSA computer science professor Kay Robbins, Ph.D. “Often they’ve gone for long periods of time. They’re fatigued. And it’s very easy to make a mistake.”
Now, UTSA is part of an international consortium coming up with cutting edge ways to study the problem. Robbins heads up the San Antonio team finding a way to crunch the numbers that come in from brain wave monitoring, skin testing, heart rates, etc.
“Numbers are coming in at around 20,000 a second,” Robbins explained.
Most brain monitoring is performed in controlled lab settings, but this Army project will use wireless technology to look at humans in action and gauge their brain’s performance under stress.

Robbins is handling computer algorithms and tools. She’s also working with a UTSA statistician and an electrical engineer.
“You know, there aren’t very many frontiers left,” Robbins said, “but the human brain is one of them. So I think this is really exciting.”
The ultimate goal of the project is to come up with assistive technology to help soldiers under stress, something that would definitely have applications outside the military as well.