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New Center Focuses on Neuroergonomic Research

[1]How can humans best interact with and manipulate complex machinery? What are the challenges of designing computer systems that can easily be understood and used with minimal error? And can we monitor brain structure and function to find out how to train people to perform complex tasks in the workplace?

These are just some of the questions that Mason’s new Center of Excellence in Neuroergonomics, Technology, and Cognition (CENTEC) [2] will attempt to answer.

The center [3], led by Mason cognitive neuroscientist Raja Parasuraman, will conduct research and training to support U.S. Air Force research and development activities on human-related technologies aimed at maintaining aerospace superiority.

Parasuraman, who coined the term “neuroergonomics” and edited the book Neuroergonomics: The Brain at Work (with Matthew Rizzo) in 2008, defines neuroergonomics as the study of the human brain in relation to work. The field focuses on the brain mechanisms of human perception and cognition as they relate to systems and technologies, such as the use of computers, machines, and vehicles.

Some of the research currently being conducted by the center is funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Air Force Research Laboratory.  One project that center researchers are working on looks at how pilots and other operators are trained to fly and manipulate unmanned air vehicles.

“It is tremendously exciting to witness, from its small beginnings, the extensive growth of this emerging, interdisciplinary area of research,” says Parasuraman. “The establishment of CENTEC brings Mason to the forefront of research in neuroergonomics and ensures its future successful development.”

—Tara Laskowski, MFA ’05