Will we soon be able to control our moods thanks to a chip lodged in our brain? This is what many researchers are funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the research and development agency of the US military. On the occasion of a convention of the Society of Neuroscience, two teams announced the first tests of implants to regulate our feelings. Their ambition is to fight against diseases such as depression.
Electric impulses to control feelings
Based at the University of Southern California, the first team took guinea pigs from six patients with epilepsy. A neurological disease for which they are already treated using electrodes implanted in the brain. For three weeks, the scientists followed their brain activity as well as their moods. They were then able to associate these different moods with levels of brain activity, to deduce repetitive patterns.
A second team is based at Massachusetts General Hospital. His approach is to rely on behaviors often associated with mental pathologies, such as disorders of concentration. By mapping brain activity related to these behaviors, researchers claim to be able to develop algorithms that can electrically stimulate the brain, allowing the patient, for example, to refocus on a task. The sending of electrical impulses should also be tested by the Californian team.
In medicine, the use of electrical stimulation is not new. This method is used in particular to fight Parkinson’s disease. But this is the first time that implants specifically designed to treat mental pathologies are tested on humans. For the US military, the goal is to better fight against depression and post-traumatic stress of former military even in case of effectiveness, this solution could however pose ethical problems related to the appearance of”prosthesis of happiness”.