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PAGING DR. FRANKENSTEIN: Agency to research brain implants

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 4th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Scientists say that interaction with technology via the mind alone is no longer the stuff of science fiction. Case in point: government group Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA plans to spend $70 million over five years on it Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies project. Their stated aim is to develop devices to provide better therapy for soldiers and veterans with mental illness. But the idea has horrifying implications.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The agency hopes to develop a device that works along the lines of deep brain stimulation, a surgical treatment for Parkinson's that uses a pacemaker implanted in the brain. DARPA says that the goal of the Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies initiative is to learn more about how the brain works. They hope their research can offer better treatment for veterans and soldiers with mental illness.

The ultimate goal will be a surgical treatment where a neuro-stimulator, similar to a pacemaker is implanted in the brain to treat some of the symptoms of diseases like Parkinson's and dystonia.

It's already here in one form:  100,000 people around the world have a DBS implant and are being considered as a treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder, Tourette syndrome, epilepsy and depression.

DARPA wants its device to measure and analyze brain activity in real time, deliver treatment and then monitor how well that treatment is working.

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

Dr. Helen Mayberg, a neuro-scientist at Emory University School of Medicine says that researchers are bound to learn a lot about how to brain works even if the device doesn't get completed.

It's not the first time such a device has been developed. The MIT Technology Review reported earlier this year that Samsung was researching a tablet that can be controlled with the brain through EEG-monitoring electrodes.

"If you told people 20 years ago that they would be carrying computers all the time, they would have said, 'I don't want that. I don't need that.' Now you can't get them to stop," Andrew Chien, vice president of research and director of future technologies research at Intel Labs, told Computerworld says. "There are a lot of things that have to be done first, but I think (implanting chips into human brains) is well within the scope of possibility."

All in all, mind-controlling devices that are surgically implanted into an organic brain have nightmarish potential. Such a device could theoretically be used by dictators and despots in order to control their populations.

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