This is an experimental scan from the University of Pittsburgh to monitor brain injuries.
(Photo: AP via USA Today)
The Pentagon's research arm wants to develop a device that could be implanted in the brains of victims of traumatic brain injury to help them regain parts of their memories they may have lost from what has become the signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A request released Thursday by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is looking for researchers to work on a project called Restoring Active Memory (RAM), which would involve a "neural device for human clinical use to restore specific types or attributes of memories."
Such a device, the DARPA document shows, could be implanted in an injured brain to help stimulate tissue and lead to some restored memory, much as other devices have been used to help injured people "control movements of a prosthetic limb."
Between 2000 and 2012, DARPA says, at least 250,000 troops have suffered some form of traumatic brain injury, which is often associated with exposure to blasts from improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Researchers, DARPA says, should focus on three areas:
• A computational model of "human neural and behavioral function underlying declarative memories that can be explicitly recalled." That will help determine what types of memories can be recalled and those that can't.
• Developing a portable wireless device that can be implanted in the brain and use probes to record and stimulate neural activity. The probes, the document says, "should be designed for chronic implantation."
• The use of higher-order primates, such as rhesus monkeys, to test the effectiveness of the various devices. "First, proposers should utilize animal testbeds as a foundation on which to develop and test the computational model that will ultimately be transitioned to human clinical populations," the document says. "Second, animal research should be leveraged to enable a more in-depth understanding of the neurobiological underpinnings of memory function than can be achieved in human patients due to technological and/or ethical restrictions."
DARPA says it expects to issue multiple grants for research that could last four years.