Really, what could go wrong ...?
Boston researchers are set to launch a five-year, $30 million brain implant project based on President Obama’s “BRAIN” initiative — an ambitious Department of Defense project that is aimed at helping combat veterans deal with the mental injuries and stresses of battlefield deployments.
The “BRAIN” project was unveiled last year with hope of it sparking a neuroscience revolution — just like the one that happened when the human genome was sequenced more than 10 years ago, the Boston Globe reported.
The implant research will take technology already being used to help treat Parkinson disease patients and advance it to the point where implanted sensors will be able to detect and react to abnormal brain activity, the newspaper reported.
“Which areas are either not working property, are overactive, underactive, having an abnormal rhythm, or abnormal connectivity? By using an approach like this, you can actually focus in on the actual problematic area,” Emad Eskandar, a Massachusetts General Hospital neurosurgeon who’s set to co-lead the Boston research group, told the Globe.
A second team of researchers with the University of California San Francisco is poised to receive a separate federal grant of $26 million to conduct similar studies.
Practically speaking, the researchers are trying to find ways to offset, control and treat combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and depression. But their findings could also help those in the civilian sector suffering from various mental illnesses.
“We’re entering in neuroscience a perfect storm of opportunity, because the technologies are really advancing very, very rapidly,” said Arthur Toga, a neuroscientist at the University of Southern California who is not involved in the project, told the Globe. “Having this kind of information, were it to be obtained, might open up windows for therapies, because it fills in gaps in knowledge.”
Researchers hope to have an implantable device ready for clinical trials within five years. They still have to decide which specific ailment to try and treat first.