DARPA Begins Program To Develop Brain Tech To Fight Mental Illness in Service Members

800px-DARPA_LogoHere comes the government microchip in the brain that we’ve been hearing about for so many years…

Work on DARPA’s Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies (SUBNETS) program is set to begin with teams led by UC San Francisco (UCSF), and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). The SUBNETS program seeks to reduce the severity of neuropsychological illness in service members and veterans by developing closed-loop therapies that incorporate recording and analysis of brain activity with near-real-time neural stimulation. The program, which will use next-generation devices inspired by current Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) technology, was launched in support of President Obama’s brain initiative.

UCSF and MGH will oversee teams of physicians, engineers, and neuroscientists who are working together to develop advanced brain interfaces, computational models of neural activity, and clinical therapies for treating networks of the brain. The teams will collaborate with commercial industry and government, including researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Medtronic, to apply a broad range of perspectives to the technological challenges involved.

SUBNETS is premised on the understanding that brain function—and dysfunction, in the case of neuropsychological illness—plays out across distributed neural systems, as opposed to being strictly relegated to distinct anatomical regions of the brain. The program also aims to take advantage of neural plasticity, a feature of the brain by which the organ’s anatomy and physiology can alter over time to support normal brain function. Plasticity runs counter to previously held ideas that the adult brain is a “finished” entity that can be statically mapped. Because of plasticity, researchers are optimistic that the brain can be trained or treated to restore normal functionality following injury or the onset of neuropsychological illness.

Via DARPA: Journey Of Discovery Starts Toward Understanding And Treating Networks Of The Brain.

24 Comments on "DARPA Begins Program To Develop Brain Tech To Fight Mental Illness in Service Members"

  1. mannyfurious | May 28, 2014 at 6:29 pm |

    Haha. What a waste of time and money….

    • mannyfurious | May 28, 2014 at 6:33 pm |

      Actually, now that I think about it, they’ll probably find a way to “capital”-ize on it and turn it around and sell it to civilians under the guise of a “scientific treatment” for “mental illness.” That way, civilization can continue to get more fucked, and instead of blaming a sick society, we can implant nanobots into the brains of suffering people and pretend that the problem is solved.

      I think it’s a great idea….

      • VaudeVillain | May 28, 2014 at 7:02 pm |

        Just out of curiosity, *if* this works, and *if* it can actually help people who’ve survived the kinds of serious trauma that really can fuck a person over for life… are you going to feel even slightly douchey about telling those people the possibly life-saving treatment they received should never have been developed?

        Society will never be healthy enough that nobody ever experiences horrible things, not even by accident. It just won’t, it just can’t. There’s more than enough headroom in practicality to allow for both a desire to improve the overall condition of society to make such measures less necessary and to develop the tools to do so when appropriate.

        • Rhoid Rager | May 28, 2014 at 7:53 pm |

          “It just won’t, it just can’t.” Were you sitting in your rocking chair on the porch flailing your cane around at the kids on the lawn again when you said this?

          • VaudeVillain | May 29, 2014 at 10:12 am |

            Well, yes… still valid though! Even if you could actually manage to eliminate all warfare (not happening), all violent crime (definitely not happening), all crippling or fatal disease (nope) and hunger (this is the most likely item on the list, and it still probably can’t happen)… you still can’t eliminate random misfortune. People will *always* be at risk of the slip-fall-break-neck variety of random misfortune that can absolutely lead to trauma for any number of witnesses.

            So no, society just can’t be healthy enough for PTSD to just not exist.

        • mannyfurious | May 29, 2014 at 10:44 am |

          No, I’ll just be one of billions of people who made a poor prediction at some point in their life.

          Also, I don’t think I ever wrote that a “possibly life-saving treatment” should not be developed. I’m just saying that these people don’t even understand the nature of trauma/mental illness, and therefore I don’t think their approach is applicable. We already have chemicals that are supposed to “fix” people… and they really don’t. The biochemical aspect is only one influence out of quite a few. Despite what the pharmaceutical companies will tell you, mental illness doesn’t begin and end with brain chemistry. Mental illness is the result of the brain interacting with a rotten environment. If you fix the brain, but not the environment, you still won’t get very far.

          It’s like putting nanobots in someone’s brain to cure the pangs from hunger. Even *if* it did work, you haven’t really solved the problem. You’ve gotten rid of the symptom, not the problem. The person doesn’t really need the hunger pangs dissolved, that person needs a sandwich.

  2. Honestly, if I imagined for a moment that industry, government and the military had even the slightest hope of developing tech and using it ethically, or just marginally profitably with benefits for patients…I’d sing and dance for this. I really would.

    We have a huge incidence level of mental and physical trauma, not to mention the massive damage caused by trying to treat same with hi-power psychotropics whose full impact on users was poorly studied and pimped by pharma-coms. Now we live with literally hundreds of thousands of people with countless variations and degrees of depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorders, schizophrenic breaks, psychosis etc etc etc.

    If these techs develop a way to reduce direct suffering and misery and give people their lives and relationships back…I’ll cheer from the highest rooftop. Just don’t be too harsh on me if my first expectation from its creators is that they find a way to pump govt Soma into every angry brain just to keep people smiling while we’re all being slowly (albeit metaphorically) fucked to death with poison jackhammers.

    • Well said and I was thinking similar stuff

    • “… fucked to death with poison jackhammers.”

      That gets my vote for “turn of phrase of the year”.

      And yes, could not agree with your words or sentiment more. I find myself becoming increasingly Grinch-like when new technology / medicine / science is trumpeted as being the potential cure for all ills, for all the reasons you’ve noted.

      • Amen. I’m totally pro science. If science had cheerleaders, I’d be in a sweater with pompoms chanting and showing leg…I’m all for yay science…or at least I’d like to be…its just the pesky fact that so many agencies, corporate or otherwise, have fouled up so monumentally when all that was needed was to at least thoroughly vet their own research process with some really simple double blinds or longer term studies. Something about science seems to challenge ethics at every turn. Perhaps the profit, but also perhaps the challenge of achieving something that hasn’t been done before…and the desire for success outweighs the desire for self criticism or caution…especially when the long term price will be handed off to other people. *shudder*

        • i agree with you sentiments on this, but my natural response to this kind of stuff is “never going to happen”. Throwing millions of dollars at something you fundamentally don’t understand is not going to. The safety/efficacy studies are a must, but thats step 3(that they undoubtedly skip). Because people have gotten to this mindset that we “know everything” they skip step 1 of basic research, and go directly to step 2: applications.
          … but without step 3, noone bats an eye that they don’t even know what they’re doing

    • You should still be hopeful. DARPA is remarkably transparent and nonthreatening. Heck, I’d rather have them working on it than pharmaceutical companies. I’d say I’d prefer universities, but that’s exactly who DARPA contracts most of their work out to. Remember, the government doesn’t make anything itself and the Beltway Bandits are last in line for jobs like this.

      • “DARPA is remarkably transparent and nonthreatening. ”

        Da fuck?

        Are you talking about the same Department of Defense funded agency here as this article is referring to? What you think they are transparent because they release some information to the public on their non-black ops related projects?

        • I understand your bewilderment. I’m not drawing on anything from the article. Sure, DARPA does classified work, but truly nefarious work really doesn’t go to them. The ARPAs capture the public imagination for some reason and that’s just fine with other agencies. Instead, consider the following:

          -NSA is even spookier than people imagine
          -The Navy is the only military branch whose funding is Constitutionally mandated. We haven’t had a real naval battle since WWII. Where would you put your black budget?

          • Oh i agree the Navy’s China lake and other R&D facilites dwarf DARPA in terms of nefarious work. I also know that since the CIA is involved in so much drug trade its impossible to track their black budgets because much of it is funded with unaccounted for drug money which im sure they give some to NSA as well. Im just saying at this point if its government or a large corporation doing it then I probably dont fully trust whatever it is.

      • I wouldn’t call them transparent…but they did give these here fancy interwebs 😉 I’m distrustful…but not entirely hostile.

    • Liam_McGonagle | May 29, 2014 at 9:25 am |

      Well, you have to admit it makes a heck of a lot more sense than not getting into wars willy nilly.

  3. Rhoid Rager | May 28, 2014 at 7:50 pm |

    It’s like the disease trying to invent its own cure.

  4. InfvoCuernos | May 28, 2014 at 8:49 pm |

    If they could just find that part of the brain where the conscience resides and cut it out, then they’d be set. I imagine somewhere in DARPA, there’s a study group for turning people into sociopaths.

    • Liam_McGonagle | May 29, 2014 at 9:26 am |

      There must be some awkward glances around the working group table when they consider finding a study subject confirmed to lack conscience as a reference . . .

      • InfvoCuernos | May 30, 2014 at 5:29 pm |

        LOL. That needs to be an SNL skit, that is, if they still did funny stuff.

  5. erte4wt4etrg | May 28, 2014 at 8:56 pm |

    This will go well

  6. BuzzCoastin | May 28, 2014 at 9:04 pm |

    a simpler cure
    is to stop invading 4th whirled counteries

  7. Here’s an idea: plant them in the brains of the chiefs of staff and when they start thinking of how much fun war is, zap them until they mellow out. See? No more TBI for anyone.

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