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DARPA to Fund 8 University Research Efforts Under Neuroplasticity Learning Program

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will fund eight research projects at seven universities under a four-year program that aims to explore how stimulation of the human body’s peripheral nerves can help facilitate cognitive learning.

DARPA selected the research efforts a year after it launched the Targeted Neuroplasticity Training program that seeks to develop a technology platform designed to activate “synaptic plasticity” process linked to cognitive learning through peripheral nerve stimulation.

The agency said Wednesday Stephen Helms Tillery will lead a team of researchers at Arizona State University to study how trigeminal nerve stimulation activates synaptic plasticity in the brain’s visual and sensorimotor systems, while Xiaoqin Wang of the Johns Hopkins University will explore the effect of neuroplasticity on language learning through vagal nerve stimulation.

Other universities involved in the TNT program include:

  • University of Florida
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Wisconsin
  • University of Texas, Dallas
  • Wright State University

“The Defense Department operates in a complex, interconnected world in which human skills such as communication and analysis are vital, and the department has long pushed the frontiers of training to maximize those skills,” said Doug Weber, TNT program manager at DARPA.

“DARPA’s goal with TNT is to further enhance the most effective existing training methods so the men and women of our armed forces can operate at their full potential,” he added.

DARPA said it will support the Food and Drug Administration’s research effort through the TNT program and fund a workshop on the program’s ethical and social issues to be hosted by Arizona State University.

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