News Picks : Light shined on brain can be used to assess difficulty of activity
18 December 2013
New Scientist: The level of oxygenation of the blood in a person’s prefrontal cortex is associated with his or her level of mental engagement. The more thinking required, the more oxygen the blood delivers. Several teams of researchers are using functional near-IR spectroscopy (fNIRS) to measure a subject’s oxygenation levels—the more light absorbed, the more oxygenated the blood. They then use a computer to adjust the level of difficulty of the activity that the person is involved in. Dan Afergan of Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, and his colleagues are running a study in which test subjects control flight paths for multiple airplanes. As the person adjusts to the difficulty of the task, their oxygenation levels change. The system then adds or subtracts a plane for the subject to control, with the goal of reaching a level of high activity without causing undue stress. Afergan’s team hopes to pair the system with Google Glass’s navigation and notifications system to adjust the amount of information presented to the wearer.