Supported by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), scientists are hard at work on a brain implant that will grant humans the ability to never forget. The Restoring Active Memory (RAM) project is focused on restoring memory abilities to veterans of the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If successful, RAM could have an enormous positive impact on the lives of over 300,000 veterans who have returned home with brain injuries.
In partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Pentagon, DARPA announced in 2014 that it would spend the next five years and $80 million to develop therapeutic technologies that treat victims of traumatic brain injury. For RAM to be successful, the DARPA scientists must determine exactly how neurons create memories in the brain. Once the mechanics are mapped out, the scientists will construct detailed computer models that mimic brain function. These models would then be applied to a brain implant that interacts with the brain’s existing neural network.
DARPA has already implanted temporary sensors in patients undergoing brain surgery. These early experiments have yielded brain signal data from the process of creating and recalling memories. “As the technology of these fully implantable devices improves, and as we learn more about how to stimulate the brain ever more precisely to achieve the most therapeutic effects,” says Justin Sanchez, DARPA’s biological technologies program manager. “I believe we are going to gain a critical capacity to help our wounded warriors and others who today suffer from intractable neurological problems.”
RAM is only one of many bio-tech projects that DARPA supports. Prosthetic limbs that are controlled by a user’s thoughts and remote controls that induce a body to heal are among the more stunning end-product goals of DARPA’s work.