The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has launched a five-year research project in order to determine how brain implants can help fight mental disorders.
The program was funded by the Pentagon agency with the intent of helping military members and veterans deal with common issues such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. DARPA had planned to play a prominent role in President Obama’s brain mapping initiative, and the brain implant project represents the agency’s commitment to that goal.
According to NPR, the program seeks to develop high-tech, implanted devices that can monitor and electrically stimulate specific brain circuits. Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco and Massachusetts General Hospital will carry out the research.
Although the ultimate goal is to treat combat stress-related mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD, the research teams will begin by studying individuals with Parkinson’s disease or epilepsy. Several patients with those diseases already have probes in their brains, although the implants DARPA hopes to create would be much more advanced.
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“While those devices have been shown to be effective, they are very much built on concepts from the cardiac pacemaker industry. And we know that the brain is very different from the heart,” says Justin Sanchez, program manager at DARPA.
According to the Huffington Post, both research teams hope to have a brain implant ready for clinical trial within the next five years.