The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) launched its Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies (SUBNETS) initiative this week, which aims to find out “the characteristics of distributed neural systems and attempt to develop and apply therapies that incorporate near real-time recording, analysis and stimulation in next-generation devices inspired by current Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS),” according to The Raw Story.
Some patients who are not responsive to certain therapies use “Deep Brain Stimulation” devices as an alternative therapeutic tool. Nearly 100,000 people around the world currently live with DBS implants, which are devices that can only deliver “electrical stimulation to reduce motor impairment” at this time, but DARPA is confident it can also be used to treat depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, Tourette’s, epilepsy, general anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“If SUBNETS is successful, it will advance neuropsychiatry beyond the realm of dialogue-driven observations and resultant trial and error and into the realm of therapy driven by quantifiable characteristics of neural state,” says Justin Sanchez, DARPA program manager.
“SUBNETS is a push toward innovative, informed and precise neurotechnological therapy to produce major improvements in quality of life for servicemembers and veterans who have very few options with existing therapies,” he said. “These are patients for whom current medical understanding of diseases like chronic pain or fatigue, unmanageable depression or severe post-traumatic stress disorder can’t provide meaningful relief.”
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DARPA sent out a request for covering new hardware, neural system modeling software, and basic research on brain function. The agency “expects that successful teams will span across disciplines including psychiatry, neurosurgery, neural engineering, microelectronics, neuroscience, statistics, and computational modeling.”
More than $70 million has been budgeted during the next five years for SUBNETS, the agency said. The Obama administration considered it part of its basic neuroscience research initiative announced in April.