Around 1 million people die by suicide annually. Globally, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death for all ages and the second leading cause of death among young people aged 15–29 years. In 2013, it was estimated that 9.3 million adults 18 years and older in the United States had suicidal thoughts and 1.3 million attempted suicide. Unfortunately, suicide death rates have continued to rise.
The predictive value of currently identified nonbiological risk factors for suicide is limited, and a reliable biological risk marker has yet to be identified. Current methodologies, which include self-reporting and screening questionnaires, cannot predict suicidality. Identifying brain alterations that contribute to suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STBs) are important to develop more targeted and effective strategies to prevent suicide.
In the last decade, and especially in the last 5 years, there has been exponential growth in the number of neuroimaging studies reporting structural and functional brain circuitry correlates of STBs. In order to prevent suicide more effectively, there is an urgent need to better understand the mechanisms that confer increased risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STBs), and to identify biological markers of risk to generate more targeted successful prevention strategies and monitor responses to them.
Suicides is also a national security problem. Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 30,000 active duty members and veterans have taken their own lives – four times as many as those killed in post-911 military operations. Current methods to detect early signs of behavioral and mental health risk factors rely on self-reporting and screening questionnaires, which can’t reliably predict suicidality. Effective behavioral health assessment is a mission-critical capability requiring novel tools to identify and help those at risk.
DARPA announced the Neural Evidence Aggregation Tool (NEAT) program in March 2022 that seeks to more accurately identify active-duty soldiers, and veterans, who are at risk of committing suicide. NEAT aims to develop a new cognitive science tool that identifies people at risk of suicide by using preconscious brain signals rather than asking questions and waiting for consciously filtered responses.
Freud talked about conscious, preconscious, and unconscious thoughts. The conscious thoughts are those we’re aware of right now. We must actively hold these thoughts in mind. If we don’t, that data might be stored in the long-term memory or the unconscious mind.
The unconscious mind encompasses all the thoughts we have that we aren’t actively thinking about at this moment. Within the unconscious mind, Freud said, there are the thoughts we can’t easily retrieve. These may be traumatic memories or thoughts we have repressed.
There are also the preconscious thoughts we aren’t thinking of now but can think of easily if we choose to or something triggers us to think about them. We aren’t using those thoughts right now, but we can pull them out of our unconscious minds quickly and easily.
“NEAT is a proof-of-concept effort attempting to develop a new tool for mental and behavioral health screening that moves us beyond historical and current methods of questions and consciously filtered responses,” said Greg Witkop, a former Army surgeon and current program manager in DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office. “Using the preconscious will hopefully enable us to detect signs of depression, anxiety, or suicidal ideation earlier and more reliably than ever before. 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.”
By way of analogy, NEAT is envisioned to be for mental health what an MRI is for the physical body: a way to assess injury. As an MRI can detect an early meniscal tear prior to a more serious injury developing that can impact a soldier’s readiness, NEAT would identify psychological and behavioral changes before they impact readiness.
NEAT is not focused on lie detection, truth detection, or assessing someone’s credibility but, rather, on aggregating preconscious brain signals to determine what someone believes to be true. The screening process envisioned could involve presenting various statement stimuli of behavioral health relevance, such as biographical information, actions, or intentions (e.g., I want to end my life/enjoy my life) to measure preconscious responses. NEAT would triangulate responses to aggregate evidence and determine if the person reading the stimuli statements believes they are true, false, or indeterminate.
The program includes two technical areas. The first area focuses on research and development and will include several multidisciplinary teams spanning cognitive science, bioengineering, and machine learning to address all of the key technical challenges to develop NEAT processes. The second technical area addresses independent validation and verification. Those selected for this second area will work with DARPA and technical area one teams to provide expertise and independently validate NEAT methods.
NEAT is planned as a 3.5 year program, with a 24-month proof of concept phase, followed by an 18-month operational setting phase. Throughout the program lifecycle, DARPA will leverage an independent Ethical, Legal, and Societal Issues (ELSI) group to advise NEAT program leadership and performers on ELSI concerns.
“Ultimately, NEAT intends to augment current behavioral health screening programs by providing clinicians with previously unavailable information to enable earlier interventions and more reliable measures of successful treatment,” Witkop said. “Just as the objective evidence of an X-ray or MRI is sometimes necessary to help a military member not feel like they are letting their unit down because of a visible injury, NEAT will attempt to provide objective evidence of invisible injuries for help to be provided in time.”
While mental health among soldiers is a serious issue for the Department of Defense, applications coming out of the NEAT program have the very real potential to give governments and corporations the ability to hack human beings at the preconscious level.
Speaking to the unelected globalists at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos in 2020, Harari warned that humans were no longer mysterious souls, but rather hackable animals that could be monitored and controlled by public and private entities in horrendous ways.
“Just imagine North Korea in 20 years where everybody has to wear a biometric bracelet, which constantly monitors your blood pressure, your heart rate, your brain activity 24 hours a day.
“You listen to a speech on the radio by the ‘Great Leader,’ and they know what you actually feel — you can clap your hands and smile, but if you’re angry, they know you’ll be in the gulag tomorrow morning” — Yuval Harari, WEF, 2020