A DARPA funded deep-brain stimulator with the ability to alter a patients reality may be tested on humans as early as 2017
(VERO BEACH, FLA) In April 2013 President Obama announced the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neuroscience initiative (BRAIN), which made available large amounts of funds to invest in learning the intricacies of cranial neural function.
The Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) — known for its experimental flare and for projects such as the Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot (EATR), a military robot built to sustain itself off of biomass, which could potentially include human or animal flesh, though its creator expressly denied that was the developers intended mission — jumped at the available funding.
In the fall of 2013 DARPA announced a project to develop an implanted, closed-loop diagnostic and therapeutic system for treating, and possibly curing, neuropsychological illness.
They named the nebulous project Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies (SUBNETS),and in caught the attention of psychiatrist Darin Dougherty, neurosurgeon Emad Eskandar, and neuroengineer Alik Widge.
In 2014 the team was awarded a $30 million grant to begin the development of the deep-brain stimulator, and based on preliminary results published in the January 2017 edition of Experimental Neurology, has experienced success in their mission to identify emotion centers of the brain and alter them.
“We don’t want to make people euphoric or manic,” Emad Eskandar says. “Happy things should make you happy. Sad things should make people sad. We want to put you back in the middle, where you can have a sort of normal range of emotions.”
Touring the Draper Laboratory’s where the prototype for SUBNETS is being developed, Pacific Standard writer Sarah Scoles was given access to the current model, which is the size of a small wallet.
The device works by strategically directing electrical ‘zaps’ to portions of the brain which determine emotional states, which in-turn alters them.The current device has five electrical nodes which responds to a satellite reception hub in charge of dictating the frequency and delivery of the electrical shocks.
“Each satellite offers bidirectional communications and records the brain’s activity and delivers electrical stimulation as needed,” Draper program manager Philip Parks told Scoles
This mechanism is still currently in prototype phase, but the neuroscience team plans to begin human testing of the device in 2017.