Cognitive Warfare

By Virginia Prescott on Thursday, August 28, 2008.
listen:Listen with Windows Media PlayerListen with an MP3 Player

The Defense Department is heavily invested in neuroscience research, and not only to protect soldiers’ brains from bomb blasts. The National Research Council released a report this month with a bland-sounding title: "Emerging Cognitive Neuroscience and Related Technologies." But the material in the report is anything but dull.

It outlines the military and intelligence community’s interest in drugs that makes soldiers want to fight, technology linking robots directly to their controller’s brains, and lie-detecting scans administered to terror suspects. Drugs are also being developed to disrupt the opponent’s motivation to fight, from magnetic beams that induce seizures, to spraying chemicals into enemy territory. Other drugs would block the brain from associating long-term memories with emotion, posing the question of whether we really want guilt-free soldiers.

The idea of the government using mind control on its soldiers to remove inhibitions can raise alarm, carrying echoes of films like the 1962 film "The Manchurian Candidate." But there’s a lot more to it. Here to tell us more about this research is Jonathan D. Moreno. He’s a bioethicist at the Center for American Progress, and author of the book Mind Wars: Brain Research and National Defense. He’s also a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and editor of the journal "Science Progress."

(Photo by John Cooper)

Word of Mouth is on the move! Sign up for our podcast and take the show wherever you go.

Say what you want to say. How you want to say it. We want to hear from you.

Word of Mouth is all about what's new. Online and on-air, the show looks at our fascinating and ever-changing world, and puts the latest ideas under a microscope. Word of Mouth investigates everything from science and technology, to health and the environment, to new trends in popular culture. The show airs Monday through Thursday at noon and is hosted by Virginia Prescott.

Support From

Corporation for Public Broadcasting

is supported by

Public Service of New Hampshire

supporting environmental education
and awareness and committed
to responsible forestry

User login