New Scientist Interviews Jacob

New Scientist magazine interviewed Professor Rob Jacob about his research into the possibilities for computers and wearable devices to read what's going on in the brain and stimulate it in specific ways.

Jacob's new project is to understand how different people respond to transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). "We think that people who have more of a response as measured by fNIRS would be more helped by stimulation," says Sam Hincks, a doctoral student in Jacob's lab.

After that, the first test for tDCS might involve flying virtual drones. Jacob's lab works with a simulation which puts the player in control of a number of imaginary UAVs, each of which needs to be steered around obstacles to its target. In early tests, players were fitted with the fNIRS sensors, and the computer added or removed drones from their control according to their cognitive workload.

"The computer adds or removes drones from the player's control according to cognitive workload," he says. With tDCS, the computer could give the user a zap when it senses a dip in their abilities, adapting the user's brain to their task, rather than the other way round.