Local 'Mission Impossible' style training, research could help soldiers 'break camouflage'

By: Chris Thomas Email
By: Chris Thomas Email
GHSU breaking camouflage

Dr. Jay Hegde and GHSU Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Xing Chen are using a relatively simple technique they developed to teach civilian volunteers to break camouflage. (WRDW-TV / March 27, 2012)

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Tuesday, March 27, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- It sounds like science fiction, but new research happening in Augusta gives the Army a look at your brain and tells if you can crack the enemy's camo -- or if you would be an ideal sharpshooter.

We are going inside the magnetic imaging suite at Georgia Health Sciences University where "Mission Impossible" style training takes place.

"It's tough to begin with," said study participant Nicole Streeb. "Then it is surprisingly easy."

Our cameras were the only cameras rolling as Streeb went in for a brain scan and tried to "break camouflage."

"The object that you are looking for is hidden in plain sight," said Dr. Jay Hegde, the principal investigator.

Hegde and GHSU Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Xing Chen are using a relatively simple technique they developed to teach civilian volunteers to break camouflage. They flash a series of camouflage pictures on a computer screen, providing about a half second after each to spot, for instance, a face in a sea of mushrooms. A green light signals a correct answer and a red light signals an incorrect answer. The computer-generated images include distractions to make the difficult task even more challenging.

The idea is to determine how Streeb's brain responds when she spots the hidden image. They also want to determine if some people are better spotters than others.

The research is being funded by the Office of Army Research. They are providing more than $500,000 over three years for the research.

"This actually can be a matter of life and death," Hegde said. "It actually feels good."

Hegde says a simple brain scan may identify soldiers who are good at breaking camouflage and most likely ideal sharpshooters.

"That's probably one of the reasons the Army decided to fund it because, in principal, this is an attractive option for them," he said.

Streeb is honored to have the opportunity to help the men and women in uniform better spot enemies on battlefields around the world.

"The battlefield is all camouflage," Nicole said. "It is all trees and fields and if you can recognize that one thing that is out of place or just slightly different, it could make a big difference."

Researchers are finding that an hour of daily training in as little as two weeks results in proficiency for 60 percent of the mostly college and graduate school students who have signed up for their training.


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