Amishi P. Jha, PhD
Associate Professor of Psychology
University of Miami

ajha AT psy.miami.edu


Welcome

Welcome to the STRONG Project Homepage. This page provides an overview of the University of Miami-led study by Dr. Amishi P. Jha which began from April to December 2010 and is still active. The leadership of 3 BCT at Schofield Barracks has agreed to host this project, and is supportive of this training and research effort. The Jha lab has been awarded a $1.72M grant to continue the STRONG PROJECT over the next 4 years. This continuation of the project aims to track the impact of pre-deployment resilience training over the deployment cycle.





Left: Dr. Jha with MG Champoux. Right: Dr. Jha and Dr. Elizabeth Stanley with BG Nixon

Dr. Jha is a neuroscientist whose primary expertise is in understanding how the brain pays attention. Her team has been awarded grants from the Dept. of Defense, Medical Research and Material Command to conduct this project using computer-based experiments and brainwave recording to investigate if and how resilience training may improve the ways in which the brain can:

  • Pay attention
  • Be situationally aware (of one’s own immediate surroundings)
  • Be better able to manage and recover from stress

The U.S. Army realizes that body armor and physical exercise are necessary to protect soldiers’ bodies and keep them physically healthy. More recently, there has been great interest in understanding how soldiers’ brains and minds might also be best protected and kept healthy over the cycle(s) of military deployment.

The main purpose of the STRONG project is to understand if and how resilience training might provide soldiers with ‘mental armor.’




Dr. Jha and Col. Piatt discuss brainwave data.

Just as daily physical exercise is important for physical fitness, neuroscientists are finding that regularly engaging in mental exercises may improve brain-fitness. The more ‘fit’ one’s brain, the better one may be at recovering from stress, solving complex problems in challenging circumstances, and handling high demands. Of course, making one’s body fit requires effort, discipline, and a commitment over a long period of time. So too does making one’s brain fit. This project aims to use cutting-edge neuroscience to measure how two different types of resilience training programs may help make soldiers’ brains and minds more fit so that they are best prepared for the upcoming challenges of deployment.

Resilience Training Programs

Mindfulness-Based Mind Fitness Training (MMFT)
Developed and Delivered by Dr. Elizabeth Stanley

Positive Emotion Resilience Training (P-ERT)
Developed and Delivered by Dr. Sara Algoe

As participants in this study, you will be invited to attend one of two 8-week resilience training programs. One program, offered by Dr. Elizabeth Stanley from Georgetown University and the Mind-Fitness Training Institute, is referred to as MMFT (pronounced ‘M-Fit’). The MMFT program teaches exercises using mindfulness and physiologic reregulation. The other program, offered by Dr. Sara Algoe from the University of North Carolina, is referred to as P-ERT and teaches you exercises based on positive psychology. Both of these programs have been investigated in prior military or civilian participants and have been found to be beneficial. This study will be the first to investigate the impact of these programs on brain fitness in soldiers. In addition to teaching you valuable resilience-training exercises, these programs will provide you with information on how stress can hurt the mind and impair operational effectiveness.

Prior to beginning the training sessions, we invited you to participate in computer- and brainwave-testing with Dr. Jha’s team. We will ask you to come back again for testing within one week of completing the resilience training course, and then again 4 months later.

Research

  • Computer Tasks:
    The computer-testing sessions involve tasks on a computer, similar to simple video games. These tasks are designed to measure specific aspects of concentration, vigilance, memory, distractibility, and emotional response. In addition to asking you to complete these tasks, we will ask you to complete several self-report surveys.


  • Members of 3BCT perform computer-based testing in the Neurobehavioral Lab at Schofield Barracks.

  • Brainwave Recording:
    Brain activity involves the transmission of electrical impulses as cells in different parts of the brain communicate with each other. With sensors placed on the scalp, we can measure these electrical signals, which we amplify and view on a computer screen. Measuring these signals helps us understand how the brain responds to various task demands and challenges.



    Dr. Jha reviews brainwave testing protocol with Col. Piatt.

    Some of the participants in this project will be invited to participate in brainwave recording sessions. During these sessions, we will place a cap on your head, which looks like a swim cap. The cap has 64 tiny electrodes in it, which passively pick-up the small electrical impulses generated within the brain when it is active. Analyzing these signals will allow us to understand if and how resilience training may be changing the brain.

  • The Research Team

    Dr. Amishi Jha Dr. Amishi Jha
    Dr. Jha has been Associate Professor at the University of Miami since 2010, and was Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania from 2002-2010. She teaches courses on attention and memory, brain-bases of attention, and cognitive neuroscience. She has received several grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Dept. of Defense (Dept of Army, DCoE) to use functional MRI and brainwave recording to determine if and how the brain changes with resilience training.
    Dr. Toby Elliman Dr. Toby Elliman
    Dr. Elliman is a post-doctoral researcher with expertise in changes in brainwave activity with attention. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Bristol, England, in 2009.
    Brian Lakey Brian Lakey
    Mr. Lakey is a post-baccalaureate research associate who completed his B.A in Psychology from Haverford College in 2009.
    Nina Rostrup Nina Rostrup
    Ms. Rostrup is a post-baccalaureate research associate who completed her B.S. in Cognitive Science from the University of Pennsylvania in 2010.
    Anthony Zanesco Anthony Zanesco
    Mr. Zanesco is a doctoral student at the University of California-Davis with an interest in how mental training might benefit emotional regulation. He completed his B.A. in Psychology at the University of California-Davis in 2007.

    Why should you participate in this study?

    Participating in this study provides a unique opportunity to help the U.S. Army determine how to best help soldiers reset and prepare for deployment.

    Mental resilience training might one day be as integral to a soldier’s fitness routine as physical training is now. As a volunteer in this study, you may be partly responsible for the improved mental health and operational effectiveness of a great many fellow soldiers.

    Resources