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Développer la force mentale des soldats en agissant sur leur fonctionnement cérébral.

Identifier, moduler et optimiser le fonctionnement cérébral, en vue de permettre une augmentation de la force mentale des soldats : la DARPA (1) vient de lancer un appel à projets dans le cadre de son récent programme STRENGHTEN (pour Strengthening Resilient Emotions and Nimble Cognition Through Engineering Neuroplasticity) (2). Ce programme vise le renforcement de la connaissance du fonctionnement cérébral dans le domaine de la santé mentale, en particulier pour la flexibilité cognitive et régulation des émotions, “resilient emotion and nimble cognition ».

Les objectifs annoncés de ce programme sont liés à la recherche dans le domaine du stress lié aux combats. Il s’agit de : “identify, modulate, and ultimately optimize brain circuits responsible for cognitive flexibility (CF) and emotional regulation (ER) to prevent impacts of traumatic stress while decreasing symptoms associated with mental illness and suicide. Current methods to prevent and treat these outcomes vary from talk therapy to electroconvulsive therapy, but they share a disease model and consequent goal of relieving symptoms rather than targeting the brain network causes. Converging evidence implicates a cycle of cognitive rigidity and emotional dysregulation as underlying diverse psychiatric disorders and their inverse, CF and ER, as key protective mechanisms that buffer against traumatic stress. Yet, there are no current tools to prevent the impacts of traumatic stress and no mechanistic approaches to increase CF and ER despite recognition of the potential for preventing mental illness and suicide. STRENGTHEN, in contrast, seeks to prevent and heal brain changes caused by traumatic stress through advancing a neuro-mechanistic approach to assessing and optimizing CF and ER”.

Dans le domaine de la gestion du stress post-traumatique, la DARPA soutient depuis plusieurs années des recherches liées aux manipulations des mémoires, avec des visées thérapeutiques. Aujourd’hui il semble s’agir d’un cadre de recherche davantage préventif,  de travaux qui porteraient à la fois sur sciences et sur les technologies, pour la modélisation des circuits cérébraux impliqués et la mise au point de d‘appareils ou de systèmes, et dont les résultats pourraient contribuer à « stabiliser » en amont le comportement des soldats dans un contexte de charge cognitive intense, en clair dans l’environnement stressant des combats.


1 – La DARPA se définit elle-même de la manière suivante : “For sixty years, DARPA has held to a singular and enduring mission: to make pivotal investments in breakthrough technologies for national security. The genesis of that mission and of DARPA itself dates to the launch of Sputnik in 1957, and a commitment by the United States that, from that time forward, it would be the initiator and not the victim of strategic technological surprises. Working with innovators inside and outside of government, DARPA has repeatedly delivered on that mission, transforming revolutionary concepts and even seeming impossibilities into practical capabilities. The ultimate results have included not only game-changing military capabilities such as precision weapons and stealth technology, but also such icons of modern civilian society such as the Internet, automated voice recognition and language translation, and Global Positioning System receivers small enough to embed in myriad consumer devices. DARPA explicitly reaches for transformational change instead of incremental advances. But it does not perform its engineering alchemy in isolation. It works within an innovation ecosystem that includes academic, corporate and governmental partners, with a constant focus on the Nation’s military Services, which work with DARPA to create new strategic opportunities and novel tactical options. For decades, this vibrant, interlocking ecosystem of diverse collaborators has proven to be a nurturing environment for the intense creativity that DARPA is designed to cultivate. DARPA comprises approximately 220 government employees in six technical offices, including nearly 100 program managers, who together oversee about 250 research and development programs ».


2 – DARPA Seeks Novel Approaches to Improve Mental Health, Prevent Suicide. Effort aims to model brain network processes to optimize cognitive flexibility and emotional regulation

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