DARPA Aims to Restore Memory for TBI Wounded

TBIThe Pentagon has ambitious plans to develop a prosthetic for the brain that, if successful, will restore memory functions lost to troops who suffered brain injuries as well as people losing their pasts to Alzheimer’s disease.

The Restoring Active Memory – or RAM – is just one project among a broad, multi-agency program underway as part of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies initiative announced by the White House last year.

More than 300,000 service members have sustained traumatic brain injuries since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center. The Defense Advance Research Projects Agency, which is pumping $50 million into the research this year, said there currently are no effective therapies to treat the long-term effects of TBI on memory, notwithstanding the size of the problem.

“The specific end goal of RAM is to develop and test an implantable neural device for human clinical use to restore specific types or attributes of memories to individuals with memory deficits,” the agency says. The Pentagon will also be looking at new ways to treat mental health disorders, including depression, and to restore the ability of patients with Parkinson’s disease to control their movements.

First up, DARPA has to develop models of how neurons code for declarative memory – that is, knowledge that can be consciously recalled, such as events, times and places. Additionally, researchers will have to find new ways of analyzing and decoding neural signals in order to understand how neural stimulation may facilitate the ability of the brain to process information following brain injury.

“If successful, RAM will improve quality of life for brain-injured servicemembers and veterans thorough the use of neurotechnology that restores specific types of memories that had been lost to injury,” the agency says.

In addition to DARPA, the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation are funding research programs under the BRAIN Initiative.

About the Author

Bryant Jordan
Bryant Jordan is a reporter for Military.com. He can be reached at bryant.jordan@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BryantJordan.
  • hibeam

    We can’t even take care of the veterans who need traditional care today but we have money for this pie in the sky nonsense? Where is Obama golfing today? I need to have a word with him.

    • Could you be more of a complete idiot? One, this is a separate research program, funded and run separately than the VA, and funded by Congress. The President doesn’t run research programs for DARPA. This series of research has led to revolutionary treatments for wounded soldiers, and TBIs are something the military needs to be able to treat. But, a waste of text, because I’m pretty certain you’d be complaining if they weren’t doing the research. You just needed an excuse to use the O word because you lack anything else to add to the discussion.

      • hibeam

        Maybe if you ‘restored’ my memory I would toe the party line.

        • Let me get this straight, to think that this research might be important, I’m towing Obama’s party line? I thought this was about research into brain injuries, pardon my confusion.

        • Rich

          Jenkinson is right. You’re basically comparing apples to oranges. That being said go ahead and make this a political bitchfest, Thats what comment sections are for.

          • johnlongmustache

            It’s not apples to oranges since those come from different trees, where as money from Congress all comes from the same source/tree.

    • Kurt Montandon

      >”golfing ”


    • aero engineer

      Well actually Obama is not golfing today he is on a 3 country visit in Warsaw, Poland to help unite major Eastern European nations against the new Russian aggression.

  • The combination of body armor and IEDs in the last two conflicts our military has seen combat, this is going to be important research with benefits to everyone. Patients have survived conditions that normally would have killed them, there’s a different grade of injuries being seen. It almost reminds me of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) Syndrome which was first noticed after the Civil War when soldiers were surviving injuries that would lead to it.

  • Liam

    Great that DARPA is doing wonderful work….personally I am not EVER going to let anyone mess with my head….it make take me time to heal…but by God…heal I will!!

    • But, that’s the trouble with neurological injuries, they don’t heal well, nerve cells don’t regenerate like most other tissues.

    • blight_

      There are plenty of vets who didn’t heal “by God” after WW1, 2, Korea, Vietnam, ODS, and the list goes on and on…

  • Blake

    Well, I wish DARPA luck. Because they are going to have a long road of hard work and difficult research ahead of them. But, I think every can agree that it is needed.

  • Blake

    … except hibeam

    • Bruce


  • hibeam

    Limited resources. I can’t get behind buying magic beans. Sorry.

    • That’s because you have a negative outlook on everything the science background of a preschooler, and an appalling lack of understanding of both current events and history.

  • oblatt22

    What hibeam doesn’t realize is that a large pool of people with little alternatives to medical experimentation is one of the big upsides of our wars.

    Every time I see a brain damaged veteran I thank them for their efforts tho often they barely register

  • Tinker

    I had to google TBI to understand what it meant – Traumatic Brain Injuries. I know the article uses that phrase but it’s not linked to the acronym used later in the article (and the title) so I found it confusing.

    Perhaps TBI is a commonly understood term for the intended readers, but FYI in case it’s not.

  • Mitch S.

    This seems like such a “way out there” project that it makes me wonder if they have some new idea that they think might bear fruit.
    As far as I know the current state of brain-machine interfaces (BMI) is quite limited, the computers can pick out just enough distinct brain wave patterns to allow a user to move a pointer on a screen or a robot arm. And this works only with some people and requires a lot of training/practice.

    Capturing/storing/replaying memories seems like a huge leap.
    But think of the implications. If someone’s memories can be stored on a machine then they can exist indefinitely – even after the person died. And like any computer data they can be copied. So if one person’s memory file can be read by other device equipped people then other people can share the same memories.
    So if one guy gets lucky with Kate Upton others can experience the same memory…

    • Carl D.

      Mitch S. you will not want everyone remembering most of your memories, unless of course you happen to be an angel… on other news.. I am a “survivor” with a TBI in 1983 -Military connected. At that time there was no treatment as there is today, new and venturesome, but at least there is evolution of R&D. Implanting something into the brain of warriors is, and for good reason at this time of unrest, seen along the lines of having ‘another agenda’. As for self treatment, I (or as I should correctly state) my brain found ways to circumvent the losses of connectivity and continue to allow me to dwell in a “plasticity” by using alternative learning. There is a lot of ‘science’ out there on the effects of cognition, residual brain functioning, and how to learn to teach your brain “stuff”. Read articles on Phineas Gage and his brains ability to effectively “regenerate” neuro-pathways to get an understanding of what was then and what we have now… with out implants. I am not advocating no research but am acutely aware of our governments unwritten stance on human research, especially in the military arena. This will be interesting to follow, especially when it quietly fades out of the sight of oversight… what? Oversight? What’s that??

    • You didn’t get the research. They’re not trying to download or copy anything, they’re trying to see if there’ll be ways to stimulate (like a pacemaker) or medicate.

  • Isoroku Yamamoto

    I say we try it out on Obama!

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