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.

  • 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.

  • 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…

  • Isoroku Yamamoto

    I say we try it out on Obama!

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