Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition caused by exposure to an extremely terrifying event which causes potential or actual physical or mental harm. This form of anxiety disorder may be caused by natural disasters, human accidents, military combat, or violent physical or sexual assault. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 7.7 million Americans age 18 and older suffer from PTSD.
PTSD and other neuropsychiatric disorders may soon be a thing of the past. A report at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory details a $5.6 million grant from Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The facility will use the funding to develop a device that has the ability to record and stimulate the central nervous system when implanted deep within the human brain.
The cybernetic implant is comprised of a slim microchip, only a few millimeters in size, containing 120 microelectrodes. Once inside the brain’s tissue, the wireless neural interface can stimulate the brain’s electrical activity to help PTSD sufferers learn to control their anxiety and other symptoms. The device could also be used to restore physical functions, such as limb movement and bladder control.
The effort is led by scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and Massachusetts General Hospital. DARPA hopes to have developed a prototype of the neural implant within 5 years.
Experts at DARPA’s Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies (SUBNET) program have been working for almost a decade with a technique known as deep brain stimulation. The technique uses electrodes implanted within the deep tissues of the brain. The implants produce very low doses of electricity, which can be used to regulate abnormal impulses within the brain. SUBNET has previously used this type of technology to treat disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, dystonia and essential tremor.
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