Program Manager: Dr. Amy Kruse
Sleep deprivation is a fact of modern combat. Current operations depend upon the warfighter’s ability to function for extended periods of time without adequate sleep. The widespread operational demand for optimal performance in sleep-depriving conditions demonstrates the necessity for development of methods to safely combat sleep deprivation and to prevent the associated degradation of performance.
The goal of the Preventing Sleep Deprivation Program is to define and implement approaches to prevent the harmful effects of sleep deprivation, and to provide methods for recovery of function with particular emphasis on cognitive and psychomotor impairments. Among the approaches currently under investigation include novel pharmaceuticals that enhance neural transmission, nutraceuticals that promote neurogenesis, cognitive training, and devices such as transcranial magnetic stimulation. The approaches discovered in this program will greatly increase our soldiers’ ability to function more safely and effectively despite the prolonged wakefulness inherent in current operations.
As the line between science fiction and reality becomes increasingly blurry, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has always led the pack in terms of cool, weird, wacky and frightening innovations. This time Darpa-funded scientists have found a drug that eliminates sleepiness with a nasal spray of a key brain hormone. The spray has worked well in lab experiments, with no apparent side effects. The hope is that the hormone will serve as a promising sleep-replacement drug in humans.
The spray contains a naturally occurring brain hormone called orexin A. In tests, monkeys suffering from sleep deprivation were treated with the substance and were subsequently able to perform like well-rested monkeys on cognitive tests. Darpa is no doubt interested in the spray for it’s promise of keeping soldiers awake and alert during battle, but for those suffering from narcolepsy, the discovery may offers a potential treatment. Even those with less severe sleep disorders may be interested. According to the National Sleep Foundation, than 70 percent of Americans get less than the generally recommended eight hours of sleep per night and consequently suffer some type of sleep-deprivation symptoms.
DARPA Sets Tone for Technological Superiority
By Lawrence P. Farrell Jr.
Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England at a recent conference in the nation’s capital noted that the greatest long-term threat to America is not weapons of mass destruction, but rather the prospect of losing our strength in science and technology.
England’s observations are quite sobering, and remind us of the important role that science and technology play in the military superiority of our armed forces. Although technology is just one of a triad of key elements that are needed to maintain our edge on the battlefield — quality people is the primary component, in addition to first-class training.
Technology is America’s great strength and one that we cannot afford to lose. In this context, it is fitting to highlight the important contributions that the Defense Department makes to the nation in this critical realm. In fiscal year 2007, defense S&T remains fairly robust at $13.3 billion — this includes programs in basic research (6.1) and applied research (6.2 and 6.3). One issue of concern, however, is that S&T is only 17 percent of the entire defense RDT&E (research, development, testing and evaluation) budget. That 17 percent share is expected to decline.
The biggest share of the defense S&T budget — $3 billion — belongs to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
DARPA truly is on the leading edge of technology, and provides a winning model for how the government can achieve genuine innovation that also helps us win wars.