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DARPA Commissions Research into Brain Implant

Mental illness is one of the biggest problems plaguing the U.S. military. Worse than that, more soldiers die from suicide than in any actual armed conflict these days; more than one in nine medical discharges is due to mental illness.

The Department of Defense's research arm, DARPA, has commissioned a $70 million project that will allow them to monitor the brain in real-time. Codenamed SUBNETS (Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies), the tech takes cues from Deep Brain Stimulation, a recent surgical treatment that uses electrical impulses to treat several different mental illnesses.

DARPA program manager Justin Sanchez said, "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… SUBNETS is a push toward innovative, informed, and precise neurotechnological therapy to produce major improvements in quality of life for service members and veterans who have very few options with existing therapies. 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."

SUBNETS will be using data gathered from unrelated mental illnesses and look for patterns, hopefully producing a working prototype inside of a few years.

"We're talking about a whole systems approach to the brain, not a disease-by-disease examination of a single process or a subset of processes," Sanchez said. "SUBNETS is going to be a cross-disciplinary, expansive team effort, and the program will integrate and build upon historical DARPA research investments."

While this is all really interesting in principle, I'm not so sure I want the military knowing what's going on in anyone's head, NSA PRISM and rampant wiretapping being what it is these days.