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Controlling Soldiers’ Brains With Ultrasound?

September 13, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Medical Ethics, Neuroradiology
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Remote-control flying drones have become major weapons for the U.S. military. Now the Defense Department is trying to develop remote-control soldiers.

Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration. But Arizona State University researcher William J. Tyler, PhD, is working on a military helmet that would use pulsed low-intensity, low-frequency ultrasound to influence brain function. Here are the “potential applications” that Dr. Tyler listed earlier this month in a post, titled “Remote Control of Brain Activity Using Ultrasound,” on the Defense Department blog Armed with Science:

Neurological/psychiatric intervention, navigational commands/assistance, long-term alertness/wakefulness, behavioral reinforcement, anxiety/stress reduction, cognitive enhancement, pain intervention, TBI protection

If that’s not mind control, it’s pretty close.

Dr. Tyler has received a grant through the famous (or infamous, depending on your social, political, or ethical perspective) Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). “How can this technology be used to provide our nation’s Warfighters with strategic advantages?” he wrote. “We have developed working and conceptual prototypes in which ballistic helmets can be fitted with ultrasound transducers and microcontroller devices.”

Dr. Tyler has been working on noninvasive brain stimulation for years. The Tyler Laboratory Web site mentions potential applications ranging from treatment of Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy to interactive gaming and the “downloading” of virtual experiences into the brain.

“Going deep beneath the skull and having extremely specific spatial resolution are two huge advantages over existing approaches,” Dr. Tyler told Wired magazine. “Depth and specificity are what allow the ultrasound to do what other methods can’t.”

Particularly intriguing, for both military and civilian applications, is the notion of treating traumatic brain injuries (TBI) via ultrasound. “The really damaging part of a TBI isn’t the initial injury,” Dr. Tyler said. “It’s the metabolic damage, the free radicals and the swelling that are happening in the hours afterward. If you can flick your remote and trigger an immediate intervention, you’d be curbing what might otherwise be lifelong brain damage.”

Related seminar: Neuro & Musculoskeletal Imaging (brand new release)


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One Response to “Controlling Soldiers’ Brains With Ultrasound?”

  1. Radiology Daily»AlertArchive » Wanna Get Happy? Try Brain Ultrasound on July 19th, 2013 at 10:06 am

    […] State, who has been exploring the effects of ultrasound on the brain for years. (See, for example, this post from the┬áRadiology Daily archives.) Dr. Tyler found that ultrasound applied to animals’ […]