Brian Erickson is a research assistant professor at Drexel University, and a member of the Cognitive Neuroengineering and Wellbeing Laboratory (CogNeW). He received his PhD in cognitive science from Drexel University in 2017. Brian specializes in the combination of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) and electroencephalography (EEG) into high temporal-precision closed-loop systems to explore and enhance attention, motor, and other human cognitive functions. Brian has made major contributions to grantwork leading to NIH R01 funding for the development of novel EEG technology. He has expertise in machine learning, statistical parametric mapping and network neuroscience approaches. He has published in diverse cognitive domains including creativity and the connectomics of aphasia.
Humans cycle through “good and poor” phases of attention about four times a second. Our reactions are faster to events that happen during the good phase rather than the poor phase. In the CogNeW lab, Brian is leading a project to measure these attentional phases in real time and apply neural stimulation to enhance reactions and focus. Specifically, the team monitors which phase attention is in using EEG brainwaves, and then stimulate the brain during the “good” phase using pulses of magnetic energy. Evidence suggests that magnetic pulses targeted this way could raise the sensitivity of the attention system, allowing people to react more quickly and maintain better focus. This effect might work like drinking a cup of coffee, with the potential added benefit that unlike coffee and other drugs, most magnetic brain stimulation doesn’t have any side effects. With repeated applications, many magnetic brain stimulation effects last for days or weeks. Successful phase-targeted enhancement of attention would be promising groundwork for brain-stimulation treatments for attention disorders or focus enhancements for people with normal attention systems. Whether or not this approach succeeds at enhancing attention, using phase targeted brain stimulation allows investigators to casually test exciting new theories of how human attention works.