The Pentagon is planning to implant veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with small electronic sensors that will map their brains. The project will proceed with the help of a $30-million grant provided by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
According to a statement released by Massachusetts General Hospital — the creator of the chip — the “deep brain stimulation (DBS) device … will monitor signals across multiple brain structures in real time.”
“Our goal is to take DBS to the next level and create an implantable device to treat disorders like PTSD and TBI. Together with our partners we’re committed to developing this technology, which we hope will be a bold new step toward treating those suffering from these debilitating disorders,” said Dr. Emad Eskandar, director of functional neurosurgery at Massachusetts General Hospital and the project’s principal investigator.
Draper Laboratory, a non-profit research group with experience in the development of “miniaturized smart medical devices,” will partner with Massachusetts General and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in creating the brain implant.
In a description of its work that sounds more Manchurian Candidate and less treatment for depressions and PTSD, Draper Laboratory reports that its “emphasis has shifted to research in innovative space navigation topics, intelligent systems that rely on sensors and computers to make autonomous decisions.”
DARPA will pay to manipulate the minds of military veterans as part of its support of President Obama’s brain mapping initiative.
On April 2, 2013, President Obama announced his plan to spend $100 million to “revolutionize our understanding of the human mind.”
Dubbed the BRAIN Initiative — short for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies — the program calls on the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and DARPA to kickstart the research.
Describing the brain-mapping project as one of his administration’s “Grand Challenges,” the president explained the goal behind the grants:
Imagine if no family had to feel helpless watching a loved one disappear behind the mask of Parkinson’s or struggle in the grip of epilepsy. Imagine if we could reverse traumatic brain injury or PTSD for our veterans who are coming home. Imagine if someone with a prosthetic limb can now play the piano or throw a baseball as well as anybody else, because the wiring from the brain to that prosthetic is direct and triggered by what's already happening in the patient's mind. What if computers could respond to our thoughts or our language barriers could come tumbling down. Or if millions of Americans were suddenly finding new jobs in these fields — jobs we haven’t even dreamt up yet — because we chose to invest in this project.
Freeing the human race from disease is a noble endeavor, but perhaps President Obama should explain how the military’s super-secret research and development group (DARPA) is going to help.
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