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Suicides among American soldiers have outnumbered combat deaths in Afghanistan throughout much of this year. The frightening trend has inspired the U.S. military to start working on a Minority Report-style future where they can predict a person’s intentions. This is why the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) are trying to find a way to predict when someone might commit suicide or perhaps murder.In July 2012, the U.S. military lost 56 members in one month, all of them committed suicide. DARPA plans to hold a suicide prevention workshop on Oct. 19 to figure out the best methods and technological tools for identifying troubled states of mind.

According to a Lifescience report, DARPA also plans to track people throughout stressful situations using electroencephalography (EEG) machines or functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the troops’ brainwaves. The soldiers will be equipped with wearable EEG systems – in their helmets or sleep caps – that will monitor their brain patterns.

Experts already use psychological screening and neurocognitive tests to come up with risk assessments for whether imprisoned criminals are at low, medium or high risk of falling back on old behaviors, says Kent Kiehl, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of New Mexico.

The technology already exists

It is already possible to improve risk assessments for suicide or murder, but the technology could be better. Kiehl envisioned an EEG system embedded in soldiers’ helmets that could collect mental data by measuring brain wave patterns, or perhaps a wearable EEG cap for sleeping soldiers to identify troubled sleep patterns that could tip off psychologists as related warning signs.

But predicting an individual’s likelihood of committing suicide or murder still represents a huge challenge.

“If DARPA is interested in a tricorder that zaps you and tells you whether you’ll commit suicide, then, no — we’re not there yet,” Kiehl said.


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