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Soldiers and veterans looking to alleviate the devastating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder might soon have a new way to help themselves. Strangely, it involves using their gray matter to control a videogame.

The process is known as neurofeedback, or NF, and it’s the latest in a long, increasingly out-there list of potential PTSD remedies — from neck injections to memory-zapping drugs — being studied by military researchers. This week, scientists at San Diego’s Naval Medical Center announced plans for a clinical trial on 80 patients, designed to compare neurofeedback with a sham control procedure. The trial, the first of its kind, is meant to determine whether or not NF can avail soldiers of symptoms like nightmares, anxiety attacks and flashbacks.

“The proposed study could expand treatment alternatives for servicemen with PTSD,” the announcement reads. “If [neurofeedback] is shown to improve symptom reduction [...] it would offer a non-pharmacological intervention that would avoid undesirable side effects, and accelerate recovery.”

While the idea sounds pretty odd, the process of neurofeedback isn’t so intimidating (and I would know, having undergone the procedure myself for The Daily last year). A clinician affixes EEG electrodes to specific regions on a patient’s scalp, designed to read the output of the patient’s brain activity. Then, as the clinician monitors those brain waves from a computer console, the patient controls the key element of a videogame — like a car racing through a winding tunnel — using nothing more than their mind.

If a patient’s brain activity remains calm and steady, the videogame responds with enhanced performance — the car moves more quickly and navigates smoothly. If activity is wonkier and less controlled, that race car will veer out of control and, say, smash into a brick wall. Game over.

The idea behind NF is grounded in the emerging science of brain plasticity, or the ability of the adult brain (previously thought to reach stasis in adulthood) to change throughout life. Neurofeedback clinicians suspect that the brain, in “seeing” its own activity on-screen, is spurred to fix defects in order to work on a more optimal level. Over a series of several sessions, those repairs then supposedly become more permanently entrenched.

“When the brain sees itself interacting with the world, it becomes interested in that,” Dr. Siegfried Othmer, chief scientist at LA’s EEG Institute and responsible, along with his neurobiologist wife Sue, for “The Othmer Method” — a specific approach to neurofeedback being used in the military trial — told me last year.  ”Likewise, when it sees the signal on-screen and realizes it’s in charge, it becomes interested. You might not notice, but the brain takes notice.”

The realm of brain plasticity is relatively new, but neurofeedback actually isn’t. The procedure first gained notoriety in the 1960s as a treatment for everything from migraine headaches to bed-wetting. Still, in part because of a paucity of mainstream scientific research, the approach has long been relegated to the realm of bunk science. “I think the practice has gotten ahead of the science,” Dr. Andrew Leuchter, a professor at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, told me. “It wouldn’t be surprising … if much of the benefit was attributable to the placebo response.”

Despite such mainstream skepticism, neurofeedback is already being used by several military doctors and psychologists. Maj. Michael Villaneuva — nicknamed “The Wizard” by his patients — has performed NF on several hundred active-duty soldiers, and even brought his game console and electrodes on a deployment to Afghanistan this year. And Dr. Jerry Wesch, who leads a PTSD recovery program at Fort Hood, describes the results of his own neurofeedback trials on patients as “jaw dropping.”

Upwards of a thousand former soldiers have also tried neurofeedback, thanks to Homecoming 4 Veterans, a non-profit started by the Othmers that offers free NF to veterans through a network of 200 practitioners nationwide. The two are also responsible for training Villaneuva and other military docs in the art of NF.

Already, the Othmers are confident that the military’s clinical trial, expected to kick off in December, will yield positive results. And they hope that the trial, once complete, lends more credence to the therapy they’ve helped pioneer. “I think the trial could be huge, not only with [medical] academia, but for clinicians,” Sue tells Danger Room. “They’re often wary of adapting procedures that haven’t seen evidence-based study. So this checks off an important box.”

But the trial won’t be easy: Controlled tests of processes, rather than pharmaceuticals, are notoriously tough. That’s because designing and executing a “sham” procedure is much more difficult than, say, just doling out sugar pills instead of the real drug.

Then again, for soldiers who credit neurofeedback with their recovery from PTSD, the execution or academic impact of a clinical trial is hardly the most important thing. “How it works doesn’t matter to me,” Staff Sgt. Justin Roberts, who underwent the process at Fort Hood, told me. “Just as long as it does.”

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Apologies for no updates in nearly three weeks…just been busy with own work… But here we go again. Loads to share…

Features and Essays

Brilliant…Full edit of Gene Smith’s classic ‘Country Doctor’ online for the first time on LIFE.com….

Eugene Smith: Country Doctor (Life.com)

Finally received the first issue of my annual National Geographic Magazine subscription..Bought annual deal in NatGeo’s Regent Street store in London in August…Found out in December my activation hadn’t gone through, and then told should start receiving issues from January….Got on my nerves…Five months wait… oh well… Glad to finally being able to enjoy print issues on regular basis…From the February 2012 issue….

Amy Toensing: Papua New Guinea’s Cave People (NGM)

Gerd Ludwig: Astana, Kazakhstan (NGM)

This week’s Time International cover story…Christopher Morris has been back to the White House…

Christopher Morris: Inside Barack Obama’s World (Lightbox)

Republican primaries…

Two series by Charles Ommanney for Newsweek…

Charles Ommanney: South Carolina Trail (Newsweek)

Charles Ommanney: The Granite State Weighs In (Newsweek)

Chris Morris from New Hampshire for TIME…

Christopher Morris: New Hampshire Primary (Lightbox)

Brooks Kraft: Running Romney (Photo Booth)

Mark Makela: How to Run for President (zReportage)

One year since the Egypt revolution…Ed Ou video and slideshow on NYT

Ed Ou and Ben Solomon: Reflections on an Unfinished Revolution (NYT) video

Ed Ou: Youth in Egypt (NYT Lens)

Ed Ou: The Ongoing Revolution (Photographer’s website)

Denix Dailleux: Egyptian Artists (Newsweek)

Nice series by Adam Dean…

Adam Dean: Kachin Come Under Siege in Myanmar (NYT)

Erika Larsen’s beautiful Sami work on NYT Lens…

Erika Larsen: Sami People (NYT Lens)

Alejandro Chaskielberg:  Horn of Africa (BBC)

Eunice Adorno: The Flower Girls: Mennonites in Mexico (Lightbox)

Ed Kashi: Turkey (VII)

Nikos Economopoulos: India in Colour (Magnum)

Ron Haviv: The Devastating Costs of the Amazon Gold Rush (Smithsonian)

Glenna Gordon: Living with the Past in Liberia (Lightbox)

Greg Girard: Lifestyle on U.S. Military Bases (NYT Lens)

Rina Castelnuovo: In Israel, a Clash Between the Secular and Ultra-Orthodox  (NYT)

Steve Shelton: Sudan’s Secession Crisis (zReportage)

Richard Tsong Taatarii: Baby Buddha (zReportage)

Mimi Chakarova: Sold for Sex in Eastern Europe (CNN Photo blog)

Luigi Baldelli: Afghanistan (Corriere.it)

Leon Borensztein: American Portraits (Lightbox)

Sean Gallagher: The Smog That Ate Beijing (Foreign Policy)

Louise Serpa: Sweetheart of the Rodeo (NYT Lens)

Brian Cassey: Hong Kong’s Poor Living in Cages (CNN Photo blog)

Leonard Freed: Behind New York City’s ‘Police Work’ (Lightbox)

Jeff Harris: 4,748 Self-Portraits and Counting (Lightbox)

Giuliano Camarda: Jahalin Bedouins in East Jerusalem (Photographer’s website)

Åsa Sjöström: Turkana Draught (Moment Agency)

Ragnar Axelsson: Greenland (Polka)

Joel Sternfeld:  First Pictures (Photo Booth)

Kalpesh Lathigra: From the Film Set of ‘Coriolanus’ (Photobooth)

Jessica Ingram: Following the Trail of Civil Rights (NYT Lens)

Joseph Szabo: Coming of Age in America (Lightbox)

Davide Monteleone: Red Thistle (VII)

NPR photographer David Gilkey has been discovering Russia by rail…

David Gilkey: Russia By Rail (NPR)

Larry Racioppo: New York Housing Pictures (NYT Lens)

Peter Mcdiarmid: Year in Pictures 2011 (Photographer’s Vimeo)

Kieran Dodds: The Scottish Highland Games (The Atlantic)

Lee Jeffries: Homeless (Guardian)

Interviews

Chris Johns, Editor, National Geographic Magazine (burn Magazine)

Patti Smith (BBC)

Steve McCurry on fall of Kodak (BBC)

Alejandro Chaskielberg (BBC)

Adam Dean (Digital Photo Pro)

Luca Sage (Sojournposse)

Guy Martin (BBC) Starts at around 17 mins.

Toni Greaves : Radical Love, The Promise (BJP)

Jason Larkin : Cairo Divided (BJP)

Joel Sartore (NPR)

Heidi Levine on working in Libya (laurenmwolfe.com)

Chris Floyd (Hungry Eye Mag Vimeo)

Maggie Steber (NPR)

Ron Haviv (TV4.se)

Jim Wilson (NYT Lens)

Umit Bektas, Reuters photographer ,  reflects on the essence of war (MSNBC)

Rineke Dijkstra (PDN)

Shelby Lee Adams : An Ode to Appalachia (PDN)

Christopher Manson (NYT Lens)

Errol Morris : ‘We’ve forgotten that photographs are connected to the physical world’ (Guardian)

Sebastian Liste (GUP Magazine)

John McDermott (PDN)

Antonio Faccilongo (KL Photoawards)

Sean Gallagher (Asiasociety.org)

Articles

photo: William Eggleston

Guardian: The Month in Photography |The Observer New Review’s monthly guide to the 20 best photographic exhibitions and books, featuring Pieter Hugo, Eve Arnold, William Eggleston, Don McCullin and Annie Leibovitz|

photo: Simon Roberts

FT: A New Beginning(FT Magazine) | “After the disasters of the past year, we asked photographers to look at the people and places putting themselves back together again in 2012″ |Toshiki Senoue,  Davide Monteleone, John Davies, Jim Dow, Antoine Doyen,  Massimo Vitali, Simon Roberts, Laura Pannack,  Michael Collins, and Marcus Bleasdale

NYT: Blame Photoshop, Not Diabetes, for This Amputation

Radu Sigheti: The Problem with Prizes (Reuters photo blog)

BBC News: Syria unrest: French journalist Gilles Jacquier killed

World Press Photo: Preparing for Judging

David Burnett: Talent Added: Photojournalism

Ed Kashi: 3 Qualities of a photojournalist

Little Brown Mushroom blog: On Marrying a Photographer

AP: AP opens full news bureau in North Korea

Guardian: Why newspapers are closing the shutters on staff photographers

Guardian: Is photography the most influential medium for environmental awareness?

Guardian: Decisive moment? Smartphones steal focus from point-and-shoot cameras

Congratulations to Danfung Dennis for being nominated for an Oscar for Hell and Back Again…

Oscar.go.com: Documentary Feature Nominee: Hell and Back Again

Aidan Sullivan to Replace David Friend as World Press Photo Jury Chair (Reportage Tumblr)

Wayne Ford: The Suffering of Light: Thirty Years of Photographs’ by Magnum Photographer Alex Webb

David Gonzalez: Life — and Kodak — Remembered (NYT Lens)

Ben Roberts: Exposure Don’t Buy You Shit! (Photographer’s blog)

Poynter: Washington Post raises eyebrows, questions with ‘composite’ photo on front page

NYT Lens: The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League

NYT Lens: William Gedney’s View of Myrtle Avenue

NYT Lens: Parting Glance: Eve Arnold 

Sean O’Hagan writes on Eve Arnold’s touching photograph of a bar girl in Havana…

Guardian: The big picture: Bar Girl in a Brothel in the Red Light District, Havana, 1954

Guardian: Happy birthday, Firecracker: the site for female photographers | In an industry still dominated by men, Firecracker promotes and supports women working in photography

NYT: After an Arrest, Civil Rights Questions

CNN: CNN Digital Names Simon Barnett As Photography Director 

Guardian: Leo Maguire’s Best Shot

BJP: Christopher Anderson signs with New York Magazine

BJP: AFP v. Morel: Both parties moving for summary judgment

BJP: Photographer Lauren Greenfield sued for defamation

BJP: How are the Tate, V&A and National Media Museum investing in photography?

BJP: London Underground apologises for DSLR ban blunder

photo: Chris Hondros

Foreign Policy: Photos that mattered in 2011

NYT Mag 6th floor blog: Entering Weegee’s World

DuckRabbit: Cameras, communication and the intimacy of a moment.

David Campbell: Thinking Images v.25: Iran as perpetual enemy

Miniature helicopter in new use…

NGM: Field Test: Serengeti Lions

Comments on crowdfunding…

Joerg Colberg: Crowdfunding is not a cash cow (Conscientious)

Pete Brook: The Etiquette of Crowdfunding (Prison Photography)

Verve: Birthe Piontek

Verve: Kevin Kunishi

Verve: Dimitri Stefanov

Verve: Tomasz Lazar

How to make a Magnum in Motion-style essay

7 Tips for HD Color Correction and DSLR Color Correction

A Few Thoughts on Filenames…

multiMedia

photo: Joachim Ladefoged

Once Magazine Issue 4 is for sale in the App store

The cover story is by Joachim Ladefoged… If you don’t have an iPad and thus no access to Once Magazine, you can view Ladefoged’s terrific 2003 Newfoundland series on his agency VII’s website here.

British Journal of Photography – iPad App

Crowd funding

‘McCullin’ – Feature Documentary (indiegogo)

Exhibitions

The Last Days of Mubarak : Photos by Guy Martin and Ivor Prickett : Host Gallery : London : 9 February – 10 March 2012

Peter diCampo: Life Without Lights : 6 -12 February 2012 11am – 6pm at The Strand Gallery : London

Nobel Peace Center to present Hetherington, Addario exhibition

Awards, Grants, and Competitions

Leica Oskar Barnack Award

Center International Awards

Lumix Festival for Young Photojournalism 

Renaissaince Photography Prize Calling for Entries

Hillmann Prize nominations

Photobook Dummy Award 2012

Useful site for grants and awards etc. …The Curator Ship

PDN Photo Annual : Deadline: 25 January

Hasselblad’s Masters Award winners announced

Events

UK Premiere: Under Fire: Journalists in Combat, February  8 :  7pm :  Frontline club : London

Sneak preview of the above on YouTube here

powerHouse Portfolio Review : NYC

PhotoFest : Mexico

Agencies

Magnum Photos January 2012 Newsletter

VII Photo Newsletter January 2012

BJP: VII Photo appoints new director of business development

Jobs

UPI : senior staff photographer in LA

Summer internship on NPR’s Social Media Desk

Photographers

Simon Roberts has updated his website….

Simon Roberts

Kalpesh Lathigra

Fritz Hoffman

Monique Jaques

Giuliano Camarda

Jonathan May

Rhea Karam

Equipment

CPN: Gary Knight introduces the new Canon G1X

BJP: Fujifilm goes back to its professional roots, releases the X-Pro 1

To finish off… Fotoshop by Adobe

and Texting While Walking

and This is Brighton

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