Operational Neuroscience: The Militarization of the Brain

“Why design a machine to read thoughts when all you have to do is shut down a few circuits and have your subject read them out for you?”

– R. Scott Bakker,  Neuropath

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In a presentation to the intelligence community five years ago, program manager Amy Kruse from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) identified operational neuroscience as DARPA’s latest significant accomplishment, preceded by milestone projects that included the Stealth Fighter, ARPANET, the GPS, and the Predator drone. National security interests in operational neuroscience encompass non-invasive, non-contact approaches for interacting with a person’s central and peripheral nervous systems; the use of sophisticated narratives to influence the neural mechanisms responsible for generating and maintaining collective action; applications of biotechnology to degrade enemy performance and artificially overwhelm cognitive capabilities; remote control of brain activity using ultrasound; indicators of individual differences in adaptability and resilience in extreme environments; the effects of sleep deprivation on performance and circadian rhythms; and neurophysiologic methods for measuring stress during military survival training.

Anthropologist Hugh Gusterson, bioethicist Jonathan Moreno, and other outspoken scholars have offered strong warnings about potential perils associated with the “militarization of neuroscience” and the proliferation of “neuroweapons.” Comparing the circumstances facing neuroscientists today with those faced by nuclear scientists during World War II, Gusterson has written, “We’ve seen this story before: The Pentagon takes an interest in a rapidly changing area of scientific knowledge, and the world is forever changed. And not for the better.” Neuroscientist Curtis Bell has called for colleagues to pledge that they will refrain from any research that applies neuroscience in ways that violate international law or human rights; he cites aggressive war and coercive interrogation methods as two examples.

Read Article: Neuroscience, Special Forces and Yale by Roy Eidelson.

2 thoughts on “Operational Neuroscience: The Militarization of the Brain

  1. Hi there! Thought you might like this from over at the FT…: Headline reads: ‘Scientists link stress hormone to financial crisis’… Just give the traders some of those good old stress-relieving drugs and we’re away….

    Like

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