Studying the Brain at Work: Drexel to Host International Neuroergonomics Conference

Brain AI Intelligence

Scientists from around the world will convene in Philadelphia at the end of June for the International Neuroergonomics Conference hosted by Drexel University. The emerging field of research aims to design systems for safer, more efficient operations and to advance the understanding of the relationship between the brain and everyday human tasks. 

Much of the field of neuroergonomics focuses on solving the problem of cognitive overload, when our minds are unable to process vast amounts of information, especially during stressful scenarios. Research in this area has explored how to improve decision-making and performance in settings like airplanes, operating rooms, classrooms, vehicles, and even on the battlefield.

These studies are made possible thanks to advances in cognitive neuroscience and optical brain imaging techniques. Drexel researchers’ functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) system for example, is a wearable headband that uses light to measure the brain’s oxygenation levels. Researchers at Drexel have collaborated with partners in the U.S. and overseas, using fNIRS to study neurorehabilitation, the depth of anesthesia monitoring, brain computer interfaces for assessment, communication and gaming applications, pediatric solutions, education and training, cognitive aging, and much more.   

“Now that we know how to measure and analyze the brain at work, we have immense opportunities to both assess the cognitive states of human operators, and also improve technologies,” said conference co-host Hasan Ayaz, PhD, an associate research professor at Drexel’s School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems. “Neuroergonomics is a very young field, and already we see scientists around the world who are truly pushing the boundaries in many diverse areas of this research.”

From June 27 to 29, hundreds of leading experts in neuroergonomics and industry colleagues will come together to showcase and discuss the latest advancements in the field. Research topics will include aviation, self-driving cars, virtual reality, marketing, disease therapies and more.

“Aviation is a leading application area that neuroergonomics research has been most active,” said Frederic Dehais, PhD, a professor at ISAE-SUPAERO in Toulouse, France and an expert in flight safety. Dehais is co-chairing the conference and recently published a paper with Ayaz using fNIRS to measure the brain activity of pilots in real-time.

The event’s keynote speakers are:

  • Michael Posner, PhD, professor emeritus at the University of Oregon and adjunct professor at Weill Cornell Medicine, studies genetic and experiential factors in the development of brain networks underlying attention and learning.
  • Scott Makeig, PhD, research scientist and director of the Swartz Center for Computational Neuroscience Institute and the Institute for Neural Computation at the University of California San Diego, analyzes and models human cognitive event-related brain dynamics. 
  • Danielle Bassett, PhD, the Eduardo D. Glandt Faculty Fellow and associate professor of bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania, specializes in the development of tools from network science and complex systems theory to study biological, physical and social systems.

There are 15 invited speakers and close to 150 presentations by researchers from around the world. For a full list of speakers and a detailed program of presentations and workshops, visit the conference website at