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DARPA Seeks Neuroscience Tool for Warfighter Health Screening Programs

2 mins read

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has introduced a program with the goal of developing technology to help clinicians assess the behavioral and mental health of active-duty service members and veterans through preconscious thinking activity.

DARPA said Wednesday it intends for the Neural Evidence Aggregation Tool to augment current military health screening methods that use questions that a soldier could answer with filtered responses from their conscious mind.

The agency is scheduled to host a virtual event on March 15 to brief potential proposers on the NEAT program and expects to post a broad agency announcement on the SAM website in the coming weeks.

“Using the preconscious will hopefully enable us to detect signs of depression, anxiety, or suicidal ideation earlier and more reliably than ever before,” said Greg Witkop, a program manager at DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office.

“If successful, NEAT will not only significantly augment behavioral health screening, but it could also serve as a new way to assess ultimate treatment efficacy, since patients will often tell their clinicians what they think the clinician wants to hear rather than how they are truly feeling.”

The program covers a proof of concept phase that will run for 24 months and an operational setting phase that will last for 18 months.

DARPA plans to appoint an independent group to advise both agency personnel and contractors on ethical, legal and societal matters in connection with the cognitive science tool development effort.

The agency hopes to attract professional teams in the cognitive science, bioengineering, and machine learning disciplines to work in the program’s research and development and validation and verification areas.

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