By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer
Many soldiers who return home after war do so with more than physical battle scars. They also suffer from terrible nightmares, emotional trauma, and anxiety attacks. These mental disorders are serious and can affect a person for the rest of their life, which is why the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is researching a therapeutic brain implant that will literally zap them back to mental health.
You see, our brains are made up of billions of cells called neurons, which use a combination of chemicals and electricity to talk to one another. In fact, just about all of our abilities depend on how they communicate with each other within these neural networks.
Mental illnesses like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is experiencing strong nervousness after a scary experience, tend to activate certain areas of the brain that can be tracked by experts. Researchers hope they can recognize these areas and zap them back into order, which is where the brain implant comes in.
The experimental brain chip is no bigger than a fingernail and contains several electrodes – devices through which electricity can flow. The researchers plan to target the brain regions activated with PTSD symptoms, and if they can figure out the mental activity patterns then they can use the implant to deliver a small pulse of electricity. With a spark, they can basically rewire the brain and relieve the suffering. The entire research project is called Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies, and it’s part of the BRAIN Initiative from the Obama Administration.
Images courtesy of DARPA.