Trending News
Home / Technology / BioScience / Future Neuro Cognitive Warfare shall target cognitive, physiological, and behavioral vulnerabilites of adversary

Future Neuro Cognitive Warfare shall target cognitive, physiological, and behavioral vulnerabilites of adversary

Neuroscience research promises huge benefits for the world. For countries with rapidly aging populations, advances in the field will be integral to managing and alleviating chronic pain, mental illness, and neurocognitive degenerative conditions such as dementia. Dementia alone was estimated to cost the United States as much as $215 billion in 2010, including in opportunity costs for patients, families, and caregivers; researchers estimate this figure will surpass $1 trillion per year by 2040 unless new interventions are found.


At the same time, neuroscience presents a range of possible uses for countries seeking to improve national security, whether against conventional threats from other states or militant non-state groups. The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency DARPA  is seeking advances in the science of behavior prediction and modification that would improve intelligence gathering and detection and confrontation of security threats. However the rapid and iteratively more sophisticated capability to create and exploit neuroscientific methods and technologies  are also providing military to access the brain, and assess and affect its functions of cognition, emotion and behavior.


In past, war was more at physical level which was a violent clash between hostile forces, with each force trying to impose their will on the other. In future the warfare shall be more cognitive. In military the sucess in warfare critically depend on cognitive functions such as  planning (making strategy), which involves analyzing the  situation, estimating friendly and enemy capabilities and limitations, and devising possible courses of action. It is also concerned with implementing strategy, which must be reevaluated constantly (and usually on the basis of incomplete information) because warfare is dynamic. Therefore, a key to success in war and other conflicts is the ability to adapt rapidly
to the changing situation and to exploit transient opportunities rather than strictly adhering to a predetermined course of action. The ability to adapt and exploit requires extraordinary judgment, a “feel” for the situation and knowing what to do and how to do it.This  new form of warfare, the neuro cognitive warfare  aims to affect  this  critical abality.


“Potential adversaries are using the information space to wage war at the cognitive level,” the general continued. “And the threats are not going away. They are getting more frequent and more dangerous.”  We are facing another change in the character of war.” Now, 21st-century warfare is about winning information in the so-called decision space either before or during the conflict. For the general, this is what characterizes fifth-generation warfare. “It is about the fight for information,” Gen. Stewart declared. As Lt. Gen. Vincent R. Stewart, USMC, director, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) said, modern warfare is a cognitive battle. To be successful, warfare must strive to control information. “Simply, put, it is to know what to do and when to do it,” he said. “And if you don’t control information or your decision-making cycle is disrupted, or your cognitive ability is degraded, then you are not able to win or fight effectively.”


Neuroscientist James Giordano has described the human brain as the battlefield of the 21st Century. Cognitive warfare represents the convergence of all that elements that have lived restlessly under the catch-all moniker of Information Warfare (IW) since the term’s emergence in the 1990s. However, military and intelligence organisations now grappling with this contentious new concept are finding cognitive warfare to be something greater than, or as Gestalt intended, different than, the sum of these parts.


While Infromation warfare tried to control the information reaching the brain the neurocognitive warfare will target the brain itself. As Clint Watts has surmised, where IW described a war of information, the cognitive battlespace is a war for information as it is transformed into knowledge via the processes of cognition.


Neurological warfare would aim for enhancing the enhancing the cognitive skills of our own forces while degrading that of adversaries. Drugs and various forms of brain stimulation can be used to optimize the performance of military personnel, which some view as affording potential to create “super soldiers”. The brain science can be harnessed to develop weapons that act on the nervous system to produce profound physical effects, and in some cases cause death. Indeed, the recent use of sarin gas and the nerve agent VX has prompted renewed discussions about the continued availability of neurological weapons, and the viability of dual-use applications of neuroscience research.

Neuro Cognitive Warfare

The cognitive warfare targets adversary’s cognitive vulnerabilities. Herbert A. Simon, a founding father of artificial intelligence, introduced the concept of bounded rationality in the late 1950s in Models of Man: Social and Rational-Mathematical Essays on Rational Human Behavior in a Social Setting. This theory holds that humans are not fully rational and are limited by their cognitive abilities when making decisions. Humans have a finite ability to process information and to explore the results of alternative choices. Military organizations are subject to the bounded rationality problem,


In their seminal work, “Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases,” from 1982, Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman similarly observed that humans suffer from limited memory, attention, and the cognitive capacity necessary to identify and process the utility of all options when making decisions. Therefore, humans create mental heuristics (rules of thumb) to make decisions in complex environments. These heuristics rely largely upon previous experience and are subject to predictable errors, or biases. All military officers have unique experiences and personalities that serve as their foundation for cognitive reasoning. It is essential to take these individual differences into consideration when examining future military capabilities. Of note, this pioneering study was funded and directed by the Office of Naval Research, demonstrating the Navy’s enduring interest in this topic.


To support cognitive warfare and the collection, dissemination, distribution and protection of information, the military needs an impenetrable network. Currently, networks and information systems aren’t resilient enough to survive sustained warfare, the general allowed. Future network defense must be resilient, reliable and redundant.


The impact of neurocogntive warfare can  be  analyzed through OODA cycle observe–orient–decide–act, developed by military strategist and United States Air Force Colonel John Boyd. Boyd applied the concept to the combat operations process, often at the operational level during military campaigns. It is now also often applied to understand commercial operations and learning processes. Neurocognitive warfare have a potential to affect both the orinetation and decide phase which depend on cognitive functions. While AI is supporting humans in these cogntitve functions but humans still play important functions. Affecting the orientation and decide phases wrong, then no matter how well an adversary can Observe or how quickly it can act , he would be always be at disadvantage.


Countries provide thrust to neuro-cognitive warfare

US has coined the neuro-cognitive warfare concept. Every year the US Army holds an annual conference called the “Mad Scientist Future Technology Seminar” that considers blue sky ideas for the future of warfare. Wired’s Danger Room discusses the conference and links to an unclassified pdf summary of the meeting which contains this interesting paragraph about ‘neuro-cognitive warfare’: In the far term, beyond 2030, developments in neuro-cognitive warfare could have significant impacts. Neuro-cognitive warfare is the mashing of electromagnetic, infrasonic, and light technologies to target human neural and physiological systems.


PLA Expectations for Future Warfare

According to a 2017 PLA Daily article by the leading PLA theorist Zeng Huafeng of the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT), “cognitive space” is defined as “the area in which feelings, perception, understanding, beliefs, and values exist, and is the field of decision-making through reasoning.”  It includes many “intangible factors” such as “leadership, morale, cohesion; training level and experience; situational awareness and public opinion.”China’s exponential increase in research and applications of neuro S/T, which is reflective, and instrumental to China’s long-term (i.e.- 20-30 year) visions for potential dominance of the field in and across a range of medical, public, military and political uses to establish strategically latent, disruptive effects upon current and future balances of power.


Chinese strategists anticipate that the tempo and complexity of operations will increase, perhaps dramatically, as the form (形态) or character of warfare continues to evolve.29 As a result, PLA thinkers are concerned about the intense cognitive challenges that future commanders will encounter, particularly considering the importance of optimizing human-machine coordination (人机协同) and fusion or integration (人机融合).30 Necessarily, these trends have intensified the PLA’s interest in the military relevance of not only artificial intelligence but also brain science and new directions in biological interdisciplinary (生物交叉) technologies, ranging from biosensing and biomaterials to options for human enhancement. The transition from informatization to intelligentization is seen as necessitating the upgrading of human cognitive performance to keep pace with the complexity
of warfare.


In future conflict, the battlefield is expected to extend into new virtual domains. According to He Fuchu, “The sphere of operations will be expanded from the physical domain and the information domain to the domain of consciousness (意识域); the human brain will become a new combat space.” Consequently, success on the future battlefield will require achieving not only “biological dominance” (制生权) but also “mental/cognitive dominance” (制脑权) and “intelligence dominance” (制智权).


These nascent concepts, which are becoming more regularly discussed in influential writings, reflect the PLA’s recognition of the increasing importance of contesting superiority within these new frontiers to achieving advantage. Despite the complexity and capability of advanced technologies, this human element of warfare remains a critical vulnerability and source of potential advantage. At the same time, the notion of “winning without fighting” (不战而屈人之兵) is a traditional element of Chinese strategic thinking that possesses enduring relevance in an era in which technology is becoming ever more consequential to strategic competition in peacetime.


A Framework for Cognitive Domain Operations

An August 2018 article by NUDT researchers provides an expansive conceptual framework for cognitive domain operations. It explains that “cognitive domain operations have already become the main battlefield for other countries conducting ideological penetration, and is an important domain for both sides in a war to fight for or destroy troop morale and cohesion, as well as forming or deconstructing operational capabilities.”  The researchers highlight six technologies, divided across two categories, that will be key in leveraging the cognitive domain for political and economic gains. The first category, cognition (阈上认知, yushangrenzhi), includes technologies that affect someone’s ability to think and function. The second category, subliminal cognition (阈下认知, yuxiarenzhi), covers technologies that target a person’s underlying emotions, knowledge, willpower and beliefs.


Cognitive influence technologies

“Cognitive survey technology” (认知测量技术, renzhi celiang jishu) translates psychological indicators into quantifiable signals to assess the adversary’s psychological disposition—not only their perceptions, memories, and speech, but also their motivations, emotions, and needs.
“Cognitive interference technology” (认知干扰技术, renzhi ganrao jishu) is used to conduct attacks against the adversary’s psychological well-being through lethal and non-lethal means. Light waves, electromagnetic waves, and microwaves, can “cause psychological damage, confusion, and even hallucinations, changing the other’s cognition, and ultimately causing the enemy to act in violation of their own interests.” “Cognitive strengthening technology” (认知强化技术, renzhi qianghua jishu) is used to improve one’s own cognitive abilities


Weaponized capabilities at the tactical level will be focused on degrading the cognitive, physiological, and behavioral characteristics of Soldiers. Its small size and localized effects will make it ideal for employment in urban areas. Such technology could be employed through online immersive environments such as 2d Life or other electronic mediums to surreptitiously impact behavior without the knowledge of the target.


References and Resources also include:




Cite This Article

International Defense Security & Technology (March 29, 2023) Future Neuro Cognitive Warfare shall target cognitive, physiological, and behavioral vulnerabilites of adversary. Retrieved from
"Future Neuro Cognitive Warfare shall target cognitive, physiological, and behavioral vulnerabilites of adversary." International Defense Security & Technology - March 29, 2023,
International Defense Security & Technology January 29, 2021 Future Neuro Cognitive Warfare shall target cognitive, physiological, and behavioral vulnerabilites of adversary., viewed March 29, 2023,<>
International Defense Security & Technology - Future Neuro Cognitive Warfare shall target cognitive, physiological, and behavioral vulnerabilites of adversary. [Internet]. [Accessed March 29, 2023]. Available from:
"Future Neuro Cognitive Warfare shall target cognitive, physiological, and behavioral vulnerabilites of adversary." International Defense Security & Technology - Accessed March 29, 2023.
"Future Neuro Cognitive Warfare shall target cognitive, physiological, and behavioral vulnerabilites of adversary." International Defense Security & Technology [Online]. Available: [Accessed: March 29, 2023]

About Rajesh Uppal

Check Also

Medical errors can cause death, Medical Error Reduction and Prevention

A Johns Hopkins study claimed more than 250,000 people in the U.S. die every year …

error: Content is protected !!