Military Funds Brain-Computer Interfaces to Control Feelings

This week the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, awarded two large contracts to Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of California, San Francisco, to create electrical brain implants capable of treating seven psychiatric conditions, including addiction, depression, and borderline personality disorder.

metropolismaria1The project builds on expanding knowledge about how the brain works; the development of microlectronic systems that can fit in the body; and substantial evidence that thoughts and actions can be altered with well-placed electrical impulses to the brain.

“Imagine if I have an addiction to alcohol and I have a craving,” says Carmena, who is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and involved in the UCSF-led project. “We could detect that feeling and then stimulate inside the brain to stop it from happening.”

The U.S. faces an epidemic of mental illness among veterans, including suicide rates three or four times that of the general public. But drugs and talk therapy are of limited use, which is why the military is turning to neurological devices, says Justin Sanchez, manager of the DARPA program, known as Subnets, for Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies.

“We want to understand the brain networks [in] neuropsychiatric illness, develop technology to measure them, and then do precision signaling to the brain,” says Sanchez….(read more)

MIT Technology Review



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