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US Developing Implants To Make Up For Memory Loss From Brain Injury

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The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has selected two universities to initially lead its Restoring Active Memory (RAM) program, which aims to develop wireless, implantable brain prostheses that can help people overcome memory deficits incurred as a result of traumatic brain injury (TBI) or disease.

Called neuroprotheses, the implant is being developed, focusing on injured US service members and veterans, which can also benefit civilians throughout the world later.

The neuroprostheses would help declarative memory, which consciously recalls basic knowledge such as events, times and places, American Forces Press Service reported, quoting DARPA officials.

To overcome such memory deficits, "These neuroprosthetics will be designed to bridge the gaps in the injured brain to help restore that memory function," said Dr. Justin Sanchez, DARPA Restoring Active Memory Program manager. "Our vision is to develop neuroprosthetics for memory recovery in patients living with brain injury and dysfunction," he said. "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."

The neuroprosthetics developed and tested over the next four years would be as a wireless, fully implantable neural-interface medical device for human clinical use.

TBI is a serious cause of disability in the United States. It was diagnosed in more than 270,000 military service members since 2000, and is estimated to affect 1.7 million U.S. civilians each year.

"The traumatic brain injury is really a very devastating injury," said Dr. Geoffrey Ling, an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran who worked in both war zones studying TBI for former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Navy Adm. Mike Mullen.

The consequences of TBI memory loss are a reduced ability or capacity to form new memories or even to produce or recall memories, which disables the victim from doing normal functions. There are very few existing treatment options.

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) will each head a multidisciplinary team to develop and test electronic interfaces that can sense memory deficits caused by injury and attempt to restore normal function. UCLA will receive up to $15 million and Penn will receive up to $22.5 million over four years.

DARPA also has a cooperative agreement worth up to $2.5 million in place with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to develop an implantable neural device.

by RTT Staff Writer

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