DARPA continues funding for transhumanist brain implant

The federal Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as Darpa, announced Thursday that it intended to spend more than $70 million over five years to jump to the next level of brain implants, either by improving deep brain stimulation or by developing new technology.  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/25/science/pentagon-agency-to-spend-70-million-on-brain-research.html?ref=us
The new program, called Systems-Based Neurotechnology and Understanding for the Treatment of Neuropsychological Illnesses, is part of an Obama administration brain initiative.
The announcement of Darpa’s goal is the first indication of how that research agency will participate in the initiative. The money is expected to be divided among different teams, and research proposals are now being sought.
Dr. Helen Mayberg, a neuroscientist at Emory University School of Medicine who has pioneered work on deep brain stimulation and depression, said, “Darpa’s initiative says in no uncertain terms that we want to concentrate on human beings.”
Cori Bargmann of Rockefeller University, one of the leaders of the health institutes committee dealing with the direction of that agency’s work under the brain initiative, also applauded the direction of the Darpa research.
“It plays to their strength in brain recordings and devices, and it addresses psychiatric issues that are major concerns for the military,” she said.
The result would be something like a highly sophisticated pacemaker for a brain disorder.
Darpa is asking for research teams to produce a device ready to be submitted to the Food and Drug Administration for approval within five years.
Whether or not the specified goal is fully achieved, Dr. Sanchez said, “We’re going to learn a tremendous amount about how the brain works.” And, he added, “we’re going to be developing new medical devices.”
The testing of any such devices would involve both animals and human subjects, and Dr. Sanchez said Darpa had set up an ethics panel for the new program and other Darpa neuroscience work. A presidential bioethics commission also oversees all aspects of the brain initiative.
The Obama administration is budgeting $100 million for the first year of the brain initiative. A committee of the health institutes produced a draft report in September that indicated the agency would concentrate its $40 million share on systems or networks in the brain, not individual cells and not the whole brain.
Darpa is allocated $50 million this year under President Obama’s brain initiative. The agency would not specify precisely how much it would spend in the first year, and all the numbers are dependent on the final federal budget.

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