Neural Evidence Aggregation Tool (NEAT)

Funding Agency:
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

The Defense Sciences Office (DSO) at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is soliciting innovative research proposals in the area of novel assessment tools to elicit and aggregate preconscious signals for determining what people believe to be true. Proposed research should investigate innovative approaches that enable revolutionary advances in science, devices, or systems. Specifically excluded is research that primarily results in evolutionary or incremental improvements to the existing state of practice.

Trends in mental health and mental fitness were alarming before the COVID-19 pandemic. These trends have worsened during the pandemic, with rates of depression and anxiety rising precipitously and exacting a significant toll on national health and productivity.i These findings affect all Americans but have been particularly harmful for DoD personnel who face the additional strains of combat, long deployments, and over two decades of war. These trends have resulted in veterans between the ages of 18-34 being almost three times more likely to commit suicide than their non-veteran peers.ii Current methods to detect early signs of behavioral health risk factors (such as anxiety, depression, or substance abuse) leading to suicide rely on selfreporting and screening questionnaires. Unfortunately, a recent metanalysis of longitudinal cohort suicide risk assessments concluded there are no reliable means to predict suicidality.

Moreover, the combination of warfighter’s commitment to “stay in the fight” and the persistent stigma associated with seeking behavioral health assistance make current screening methods particularly challenging to use in military personnel. In order to save lives through early detection, the goal of NEAT is to use preconscious signals to identify what someone believes to be true about their own behavioral health risk factors – especially when what they believe to be true can be difficult to outwardly acknowledge, as would be required for current screening assessment. The use of preconscious signals will eliminate the possibility of rationalization or minimization because the signals will be collected before someone has the ability to consciously formulate their responses. NEAT will revolutionize behavioral health screening to assist clinicians, minimize long term vulnerabilities, and maximize warfighter readiness.

Of note, the purpose of NEAT is to help people with issues that can be difficult to discuss, and the method relies on using preconscious signals obtained before they have time to consciously formulate responses. Therefore, any proposal involving credibility assessment or detection of deception techniques reflects a proposer’s fundamental misunderstanding of the program and will be deemed out of scope.

NEAT aims to develop a novel cognitive science tool that could be used to augment behavioral health screenings by accurately detecting what someone believes to be true. By bringing together recent advances in cognitive science, neuroscience, physiological sensors, data science, and machine learning, the NEAT program will develop processes that can measure what a person believes to be true by (1) presenting carefully crafted stimuli that are designed to evoke specific preconscious mental processes, (2) detecting the resulting preconscious processes using current physiological sensors combined with state-of-the-art signal processing and neural analytics, and (3) using advances in machine learning and data science to aggregate the preconscious responses collected across a set of stimuli into a final measurement that quantifies what a person believes to be true for a specific topic. While the NEAT program will include advancing the state of the art in these areas as necessary, it will primarily focus on the multidisciplinary integration of state-ofthe-art capabilities and/or approaches to achieve its goals. 


o Abstract Due Date: March 29, 2022, 4:00 p.m.

o Full Proposal Due Date: May 23, 2022, 4:00 p.m

Agency Website

Areas of Interest

NEAT is a 42-month, two phase effort divided into two Technical Areas (TAs) that run through both phases:

  • TA1 – Research and Development (R&D);
  • TA2 – Independent Validation and Verification (IV&V).

Phase 1 (Demonstrate Efficacy) will be 24 months, and Phase 2 (Develop System) will be 18 months. Proposers should address both phases and provide details for the Phase 1 (Base) and Phase 2 (Option) technical efforts as outlined in Section I.E. Technical Area Descriptions.

Eligibility Requirements

All responsible sources capable of satisfying the Government's needs may submit a proposal that shall be considered by DARPA. See the Eligibility Information section of the BAA for more information.

While proposers may submit abstracts and proposals for both Technical Areas, a proposer selected for Technical Area 1 cannot be selected for any portion of Technical Area 2, whether as a prime proposer, subawardee, or in any other capacity from an organizational to individual level. This is to avoid OCI situations, as defined at FAR 9.5, between the Technical Areas and to ensure objective test and evaluation results. The decision as to which proposal to consider for award is at the discretion of the Government.

Funding Type





Engineering and Physical Sciences
Medical - Clinical Science
Medical - Translational
Social Sciences

External Deadline

May 23, 2022