Militarising the Mind: Assessing the Weapons of the Ultimate Battlefield
Advancements in behavioural neuroscience have revolutionised the treatment of mental illness by elucidating the mechanisms underpinning human behaviour and cognition. These advancements are not completely benevolent, but have dual-use potential which harkens back to a darker time when states sought to influence and control each other’s citizenry through psychological means. This article puts proposed behaviour-altering neuroscience weapons into their appropriate technical, historical, and geopolitical contexts to present a sober and critical analysis of the threat arising from the weaponisation of behavioural neuroscience. It argues that by using psychiatric drugs, brain stimulation, brain imaging or neurobiochemical weapons, states may be able to leverage neuroscientific advances to influence, control, and manipulate human behaviour and cognition. However, these approaches are extremely nascent and face technical and operational challenges that make their deployment difficult. Despite this, in consideration of the rapid pace of scientific advancement, growing geopolitical instability, and ambiguities in international law, scientists and the international community must remain vigilant as these technologies become more refined and the practical barriers to use begin to lower.
KeywordsBehavioural neuroscience Pharmaceuticals Dual-use Neuroweapons Biological weapons Biosecurity
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
There are no conflicting interests for either author.
The research contained in this manuscript was not subject to institutional ethical oversight.
- Adamsky, Dmitry. “Cross-Domain Coercion: The Current Russian Art of Strategy.” Security Studies Center, 2015. https://www.ifri.org/en/publications/enotes/proliferation-papers/cross-domain-coercion-current-russian-art-strategy.
- Astorino-Courtois, Allison, Hriar Cabayan, Bill Casebeer, Abigail Chapman, Christopher Rice, Janice Adelman, Azad Amir-ghessemi, et al. National Security Challenges: Insights from Social, Neurobiological, and Complexity Sciences. Accessed July 30, 2017. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/5d29/46f8e1fa2140d2d55e1fac655a7fe13d8f32.pdf.
- Bercik, P., A.J. Park, D. Sinclair, A. Khoshdel, J. Lu, X. Huang, Y. Deng, et al. 2011. The Anxiolytic Effect of Bifidobacterium Longum NCC3001 Involves Vagal Pathways for Gut–brain Communication. Neurogastroenterology and Motility 23 (12): 1132–1139. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2982.2011.01796.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Bimmerle, George. “‘Truth’ Drugs in Interrogation.” CIA Historical Review Program, 1993. https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/kent-csi/vol5no2/html/v05i2a09p_0001.htm.
- Boyd, John R. 1987. A Discourse on Winning and Losing. Alabama: Air University Press.Google Scholar
- Central Intelligence Agency. Human Resource Exploitation Manual—1983, 1985. http://documents.theblackvault.com/documents/cia/HumanResourceExploitationManual-CIA.pdf.
- Central Intelligence Agency Inspector General. Special Review: Counterterrorism and Interrogation Activities (September 2001–October 2003), 2004. http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/politics/20090825-DETAIN/2004CIAIG.pdf.
- Clapper, James R. Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community. 2016. https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/SASC_Unclassified_2016_ATA_SFR_FINAL.pdf.
- Crockett, Molly, and Ernst Fehr. 2013. Pharmacology of Economic and Social Decision Making. In Neuroeconomics: Decision Making and the Brain, ed. Paul W. Glimcher, and Ernst Fehr. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
- Cumming-Bruce, Nick. “Russia Committed ‘Grave’ Rights Abuses in Crimea, U.N. Says.” New York Times, September 25, 2017 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/25/world/europe/russia-crimea-un.html.
- Deadwyler, Sam A., Theodore W. Berger, Andrew J. Sweatt, Dong Song, Rosa H.M. Chan, Ioan Opris, Greg A. Gerhardt, Vasilis Z. Marmarelis, and Robert E. Hampson. 2013. Donor/Recipient Enhancement of Memory in Rat Hippocampus. Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnsys.2013.00120.Google Scholar
- Gerson, M., and V. Victoroff. 1948. Experimental Investigation into the Validity of Confessions Obtained under Sodium Amytal Narcosis. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology 9: 359–375.Google Scholar
- Gidda, Mirren. What Are ‘jihadi Pills’ reportedly Used by ISIS in Battle? Newsweek, May 12, 2017. http://www.newsweek.com/drugs-captagon-islamic-state-jihad-war-amphetamines-saudi-arabia-608233.
- Giordano, James (ed.). 2014. Neurotechnology in National Security and Defense: Practical Considerations, Neuroethical Concerns, 1st ed. Boca Raton: CRC Press.Google Scholar
- Goldstein, Frank L., and Benjamin F. Findley. 1996. Psychological Operations: Principles and Case Studies. Alabama: Air University.Google Scholar
- Gordon, Rebecca. Donald Trump Has a Passionate Desire to Bring Back Torture. The Nation, April 6, 2017. https://www.thenation.com/article/donald-trump-has-a-passionate-desire-to-bring-back-torture/.
- Grau, Carles, Romuald Ginhoux, Alejandro Riera, Thanh Lam Nguyen, Hubert Chauvat, Michel Berg, Julià L. Amengual, Alvaro Pascual-Leone, and Giulio Ruffini. 2014. Conscious Brain-to-Brain Communication in Humans Using Non-Invasive Technologies. PLoS ONE 9 (8): e105225. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0105225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Inouye, Daniel. Project MKULTRA: The CIA’s Program on Research in Behavioral Modification, § Select Committee on Intelligence (1977). http://www.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/national/13inmate_ProjectMKULTRA.pdf.
- International Committee of the Red Cross. ICRC Report on the Treatment of Fourteen ‘High Value Detainees’ in CIA Custody, 2007. http://www.nybooks.com/media/doc/2010/04/22/icrc-report.pdf.
- Kerr, Paul K. Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Weapons and Missiles: Status and Trends. Library of Congress Washington Dc Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress Washington DC Congressional Research Service, February 20, 2008. http://www.dtic.mil/docs/citations/ADA477531.
- LaMothe, Jonathan. Controlled Offensive Behavior—USSR. Defense Intelligence Agency, 1972. https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP96-00787R000100120001-9.pdf.
- Lentzos, Filippa. Ignore Bill Gates: Where bioweapons focus really belongs. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 3 July 2017. http://thebulletin.org/ignore-bill-gates-where-bioweapons-focus-really-belongs10876.
- Levasseur-Moreau, Jean, Jerome Brunelin, and Shirley Fecteau. 2013. Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation Can Induce Paradoxical Facilitation. Are These Neuroenhancements Transferable and Meaningful to Security Services? Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 7: 449. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2013.00449.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Lowry, Seth. 2008. Truth Be Told: Truth Serum and Its Role in the War on Terror. Regent University Law Review 20: 337–362.Google Scholar
- Marks, John. 1979. The Search for the “Manchurian Candidate”: The CIA and Mind Control. New York: Times Books.Google Scholar
- Mayberg, Helen S., Andres M. Lozano, Valerie Voon, Heather E. McNeely, David Seminowicz, Clement Hamani, Jason M. Schwalb, and Sidney H. Kennedy. 2005. Deep Brain Stimulation for Treatment-Resistant Depression. Neuron 45 (5): 651–660. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2005.02.014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Mayerfeld, Jamie. 2007. Playing by Our Own Rules: How U.S. Marginalization of International Human Rights Law Led to Torture. Harvard Human Rights Journal 20: 89–140.Google Scholar
- McCarthy, Tom. Donald Trump: I’d Bring Back ‘a Hell of a Lot Worse Than Waterboarding.’ The Guardian, February 7, 2016, sec. US news. http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/feb/06/donald-trump-waterboarding-republican-debate-torture.
- Messaoudi, Michaël, Robert Lalonde, Nicolas Violle, Hervé Javelot, Didier Desor, Amine Nejdi, Jean-François Bisson, et al. 2011. Assessment of Psychotropic-like Properties of a Probiotic Formulation Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum in Rats and Human Subjects. British Journal of Nutrition 105 (5): 755–764. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007114510004319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Miranda, Robbin A., William D. Casebeer, Amy M. Hein, Jack W. Judy, Eric P. Krotkov, Tracy L. Laabs, Justin E. Manzo, et al. 2015. DARPA-Funded Efforts in the Development of Novel Brain–computer Interface Technologies. Journal of Neuroscience Methods 244: 52–67. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneumeth.2014.07.019.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Moreno, J.D. 2006. Mind Wars: Brain Research and National Defence. New York: Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
- National Research Council. 2014. Emerging and Readily Available Technologies and National Security: A Framework for Addressing Ethical, Legal, and Societal. Washington: National Academies Press.Google Scholar
- National Research Council. Emerging Cognitive Neuroscience and Related Technologies, 2008. https://www.nap.edu/catalog/12177/emerging-cognitive-neuroscience-and-related-technologies.
- Plassmann, Hilke, John O’Doherty, Baba Shiv, and Antonio Rangel. 2008. Marketing Actions Can Modulate Neural Representations of Experienced Pleasantness. Proceedings of the National academy of Sciences of the United States of America 105 (3): 1050–1054. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0706929105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Royal, Robert F. 1976. The Gentle Art of Interviewing and Interrogation: A Professional Manual and Guide, 5th ed. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
- Royal Society (Great Britain). 2012. Brain Waves Module 3: Neuroscience, Conflict and Security. London: Royal Society.Google Scholar
- Sanchez, Justin. Narrative Networks. DARPA. Accessed July 28, 2017. https://www.darpa.mil/program/narrative-networks.
- Sanchez, Justin. Restoring Active Memory (RAM). DARPA. Accessed July 18, 2017. https://www.darpa.mil/program/restoring-active-memory.
- Sanchez, Justin. Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies (SUBNETS). DARPA. Accessed July 18, 2017. https://www.darpa.mil/program/systems-based-neurotechnology-for-emerging-therapies.
- Selvaraj, S., F. Turkheimer, L. Rosso, P. Faulkner, E. Mouchlianitis, J.P. Roiser, P. McGuire, P.J. Cowen, and O. Howes. 2012. Measuring Endogenous Changes in Serotonergic Neurotransmission in Humans: A [11C]CUMI-101 PET Challenge Study. Molecular Psychiatry 17 (12): 1254–1260. https://doi.org/10.1038/mp.2012.78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Sparing, Roland, and Felix M. Mottaghy. 2008. Noninvasive Brain Stimulation with Transcranial Magnetic or Direct Current Stimulation (TMS/tDCS)—From Insights into Human Memory to Therapy of Its Dysfunction. Methods, Models for the Study of Memory 44 (4): 329–337. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ymeth.2007.02.001.Google Scholar
- Spiers, Hugo J., and Daniel Bendor. 2014. Enhance, Delete, Incept: Manipulating Hippocampus-Dependent Memories. Brain Research Bulletin, Mechanisms of memory enhancement and erasure 105: 2–7. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brainresbull.2013.12.011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Sudo, Nobuyuki, Yoichi Chida, Yuji Aiba, Junko Sonoda, Naomi Oyama, Yu. Xiao-Nian, Chiharu Kubo, and Yasuhiro Koga. 2004. Postnatal Microbial Colonization Programs the Hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal System for Stress Response in Mice. The Journal of Physiology 558 (1): 263–275. https://doi.org/10.1113/jphysiol.2004.063388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Szafranski, Richard. 1997. Neocortical Warfare? The Acme of Skill, 395–416. Skokie: Rand-Publications- Mr-All Series.Google Scholar
- Takahashi, Hiroshi, Paul Keim, Arnold F. Kaufmann, Christine Keys, Kimothy L. Smith, Kiyosu Taniguchi, Sakae Inouye, and Takeshi Kurata. 2004. Bacillus Anthracis Bioterrorism Incident, Kameido, Tokyo, 1993. Emerging Infectious Diseases 10 (1): 117–120. https://doi.org/10.3201/eid1001.030238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Thomsen, Kyle. 2014. Prison Camp or Prison Clinic?: Biopolitics, Neuroethics, and National Security. In Neurotechnology in National Security and Defense: Practical Considerations, Neuroethical Concerns, ed. Giordano James. Boca Raton: CRC Press.Google Scholar
- Venkatramanan, Madhumita. Darpa Explores the Science of Storytelling. WIRED, 2011. https://www.wired.com/2011/04/darpa-explores-the-science-of-storytelling/.
- Vogel, Kathleen. 2013. Phantom Menace or Looming Danger? A New Framework for Assessing Bioweapons Threats. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
- Walsh, Nick Paton. Siege Rescue Carnage as Gas Kills Hostages. The Guardian, October 27, 2002, sec. World news. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/oct/27/chechnya.russia3.
- Washington Post Editorial Board. In China, torture is real, and the rule of law is a sham. The Washington Post, January 26, 2017 https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/in-china-torture-is-real-and-the-rule-of-law-is-a-sham/2017/01/26/38d0ef16-e33e-11e6-a547-5fb9411d332c_story.html.
- Wootson, Cleve R., and Mark Berman. U.S. Police Chiefs Blast Trump for Endorsing ‘police Brutality.’ Washington Post, July 30, 2017, sec. Post Nation. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/07/29/u-s-police-chiefs-blast-trump-for-endorsing-police-brutality/.
- Wright Laboratory. Harassing, Annoying, and ‘Bad Guy’ Identifying Chemicals. United States Air Force, March 6, 2005. http://web.archive.org/web/20050306021330/ http://www.sunshine-project.org/incapacitants/jnlwdpdf/wpafbchem.pdf.
- Wurzman, Rachel, and James Giordano. 2014. ‘NEURINT’ and Neuroweapons: Neurotechnologies in National Intelligence and Defense. In Neurotechnology in National Security and Defense: Practical Considerations, Neuroethical Concerns, ed. James Giordano, 79–112. Boca Raton: CRC Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar