DARPA seeks implant to recover memories lost to war injuries

By TOM ROEDER | The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette | Published: November 27, 2013

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is asking for proposals to build a brain implant that can help recovery memories lost to injury.

Best known for leading weapons research, DARPA has also pushed medical technology and sustainable energy. The latest DARPA request would represent a major medical leap.

“Ultimately, it is desired to develop a prototype implantable neural device that enables recovery of memory in a human clinical population. Additionally, the program encompasses the development of quantitative models of complex, hierarchical memories and exploration of neurobiological and behavioral distinctions between memory function using the implantable device versus natural learning and training,” the agency posted on FedBizOpps.gov.

DARPA wants the technology to conquer war-caused brain injuries. In Iraq and Afghanistan, enemy bombings made brain injuries one of the most common war wounds.

“The incidence of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the U.S. military has been documented in over 250,000 cases between 2000 and mid-2012, and an estimated 1.7 million people are diagnosed with TBI in the U.S. each year,” DARPA wrote. “TBI frequently results in impairment and dysfunction of memory, including the ability to retrieve memories formed prior to the injury and/or to form and retain memories of new experiences following injury onset. Advances in neuroengineering applications enabling memory restoration are critical for individuals with TBI.”

DARPA is set to host a symposium on the topic Dec. 10 in Virginia.

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