Clark School Home UMD
ECE

ECE News Story

Fritz, Shamma are collaborators on new DARPA Targeted Neuroplasticity Training Program

Fritz, Shamma are collaborators on new DARPA Targeted Neuroplasticity Training Program

ISR Associate Research Scientist Jonathan Fritz  and Professor Shihab Shamma (ECE/ISR) are research collaborators in a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Targeted Neuroplasticity Training (TNT) program  to study the effect of peripheral nerve stimulation on second language acquisition and brain plasticity.

The University of Maryland will receive up to $8.58 million from DARPA for the research.

Led by researchers from the UMD Center for Advanced Study of Language  (CASL), the project seeks to examine whether stimulating the vagal nerve improves adults’ brain plasticity to help them learn a second language. The stimulation is delivered via an earbud that transmits a safe, low-voltage electrical signal to a peripheral branch of the vagal nerve.

The goal of the collaborative project is to thoroughly study vagal nerve stimulation (VNS) as a method of safely and rapidly enhancing foreign language learning. The researchers will use behavioral and neuroimaging methods to examine the effects of VNS on auditory, acoustic, and speech perception learning, vocabulary and grammar learning for written language, and short- and long-term neuroplasticity in the brain. Additionally, the research team will map the dynamic neural networks activated during VNS and learning. The Institute for Systems Research’s complementary studies on auditory learning will address the neural basis for enhanced neuroplasticity with vagal nerve stimulation, which leads to the targeted release of neuromodulators that improve the brain systems for attention, learning and memory.

The principal investigators are Henk Haarmann, Stefanie Kuchinsky, Polly O’Rourke, and Gregory Colflesh, all cognitive neuroscientists at CASL. Fritz, Shamma, and Jamie Tyler from Arizona State University’s School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering are the additional researchers.

“CASL is ideally positioned to conduct the fundamental and applied research studies in this project with our partners at the University of Maryland and Arizona State,” said Michael F. Bunting, Ph.D., acting executive director at CASL. “Cognitive neuroscience has long been an active part of language research. I believe that DARPA’s strong commitment to fundamental research is an integral part of moving science innovation forward.”

The TNT program is part of a broader portfolio of DARPA programs that support the federal government’s BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies). Click here  to read DARPA's press release about its TNT program.

Related Articles:
Yin, Fritz, Shamma publish neuroplasticity study in Journal of Neuroscience
UMD neuroscience researchers publish in the journal Neuron
‘Cocktail party effect’ helps us focus in noisy environments
Auditory researchers publish sensory processing research in PNAS
Maryland researchers develop computational approach to understanding brain dynamics
Maryland researchers awarded $1M DARPA Lagrange program cooperative agreement
Improving speech intelligibility testing with new EEG methods
UMD researchers find listening to sound changes how neurons interact within the brain
Shihab Shamma elected IEEE Fellow
Researchers part of two NSF Neural & Cognitive Systems grants worth more than $1.2 million

May 8, 2017


Prev   Next

Current Headlines

Papamanthou Awarded Grant to Study Security in Blockchains and Cryptocurrencies

Alumnus Ravi Tandon Receives 2018 Keysight Early Career Professor Award 

Dinesh Manocha Joins ECE as the Paul Chrisman Iribe Professor of Computer Science

Brendan Sheehy Receives Winston Family Honors Writing Award from UMD’s Honors College

Alum Mingyan Liu is PI for Multiscale Network Games of Collusion and Competition MURI

Symbiont Health, Co-founded by ECE Major Erich Meissner Wins Pitch Dingman Competition & Do Good Challenge

Three ECE Students Named Outstanding Graduate Assistants

Aneesh Raghavan wins Ann G. Wylie Dissertation Fellowship

News Resources

Return to Newsroom

Search News

Archived News

Events Resources

Events Calendar

Additional Resources

UM Newsdesk

Faculty Experts