Researcher Jose Carmena has worked for years training macaque monkeys to move computer cursors and robotic limbs with their minds. He does so by implanting electrodes into their brains to monitor neural activity. Now, as part of a sweeping $70 million program funded by the U.S. military, Carmena has a new goal: to use brain implants to read, and then control, the emotions of mentally ill people.
This week the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, awarded two large contracts to Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of California, San Francisco, to create electrical brain implants capable of treating seven psychiatric conditions, including addiction, depression, and borderline personality disorder.
The project builds on expanding knowledge about how the brain works; the development of microlectronic systems that can fit in the body; and substantial evidence that thoughts and actions can be altered with well-placed electrical impulses to the brain.