The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has designed new electrical prescriptions (ElectRx) programme, to develop new high-precision and minimally invasive technologies to modulate nerve circuits to restore and maintain human health.

The new programme has been developed in support of US President Barack Obama’s brain initiative.

ElectRx technologies will help in accelerating scientific research to achieve complete understanding of the structure and function of specific neural circuits and their role in health and disease.

"Instead of relying only on medication, we envision a closed-loop system that would work in concept like a tiny, intelligent pacemaker."

DARPA programme manager Doug Weber said: "The technology DARPA plans to develop through the ElectRx programme could fundamentally change the manner in which doctors diagnose, monitor and treat injury and illness.

"Instead of relying only on medication, we envision a closed-loop system that would work in concept like a tiny, intelligent pacemaker."

The targets of the programme include assessment of recently identified circuits involved in regulating immune system function and providing new ways to treat different inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic inflammatory response syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.

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ElectRx also aims to develop peripheral nerve stimulation treatments for brain and mental health disorders, comprising epilepsy, traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.

DARPA noted that it requires new technologies for in vivo sensing and neural stimulation to achieve goals for the programme.

The research agency plans to release a broad agency announcement with full technical details on ElectRx in the coming months.