US Military Developing Brain Implants To Restore Memories Of Injured Soldiers
The US military are dedicating $40 million of funding for the development of brain implants that could restore the memories of brain damaged military veterans. Announced at a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) press conference yesterday, the $40 million funding package will see researchers from UCLA and The University of Pennsylvania (in Philadelphia) heading up the charge to develop the highly advanced implants that could change the lives of those suffering Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
The Restoring Active Memories (RAM) program is one of many new DARPA initiatives and serves as part of the BRAIN Initiative which, with backing from President Obama will see 12 years of advancement in brain-related sciences.
"Our vision is to develop neuroprosthetics for memory recovery in patients living with brain injury and dysfunction," said RAM Program Manager, Justin Sanchez. "
TBI has been diagnosed in more than a quarter of a million US veterans since the turn of the century, say DARPA, who also point out that TBI impacts around 1.7 million civilian patients as well. TBI can inhibit the brain's ability to recall memories from before the injury was suffered and in many cases the ability to form new memories is also impacted. The RAM program seeks to rectify this with the development of a fully wireless device that can electronically stimulate the areas of the brain responsible for declarative memories. Declarative memories are memories that reference basic knowledge such as places, events, names, all of which are regularly verbalized in day to day interaction. As such, the loss of declarative memory is often the most unsettling and disheartening for TBI patients, therefore restoring it would represent a drastic improvement in their way of life.
The researcher's first challenge will be developing the ability to record brain signals on a wireless basis, but ultimately the toughest obstacle will come in the form of developing computational systems that can interpret and then replicate these signals. Once the technology is developed, testing will be carried out on epilepsy patients that already have electrodes implanted in their brains to help combat their symptoms. From there, animal testing and controlled testing on TBI sufferers will be carried out.
Of course, research into memory restoration naturally attracts questions about the ability to erase memories, however, Sanchez insisted that his teams will "not be doing any research in the domain of erasing memories."
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