DARPA Working on Brain Chip that Restores Memory

First Posted: Jul 10, 2014 02:14 PM EDT

Could a brain chip actually restore memory? Researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are working on it.

In a statement released Wednesday, the U.S. military agency said that the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), are connecting with a team of scientists to develop an electronic implant that can help end memory lapses and even restore them.

The agency is funding the project with $22.5 million for a four-year period to seek cures for thousands of veterans who have suffered from TBI. The UCLA Project has a $15 million budget.

This memory-restoring device is being developed with the intention of helping women who have fought war overseas and suffered brain damage from a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

About 270,000 military service-members have dealt with the issue since 2000, while about 1.7 million U.S. civilians have been affected by a TBI, as well. Many who suffer from the problem are unable to store short or long-term memories.

"We owe it to our service-members to accelerate research that can minimize the long-term impacts of their injuries," said DARPA Program Manager Justin Sanchez, in a news release.

"The start of the Restoring Active Memory program marks an exciting opportunity to reveal many new aspects of human memory and learn about the brain in ways that were never before possible," said Sanchez in a news release. "Anyone who has witnessed the effects of memory loss in another person knows its toll and how few options are available to treat it. We're going to apply the knowledge and understanding gained in RAM to develop new options for treatment through technology."

Before its use in ex-military service members, researchers said they will be testing the memory implants on epilepsy patients. DARPA also said they will be meeting with neurologists to evaluate ethical perspectives of fitting people with memory devices.

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