Hope of Memory Restoration Gets Boost from DARPA
The hope of donning an electrode device and recovering memories lost to
brain injury is getting a nudge from the Pentagon.
When you break a bone or puncture a lung, the evidence is usually pretty
apparent and the treatment required to support the healing process is
typically straightforward. That is not the case with brain injuries. In
the case of a
closed head injury, the physical evidence of the trauma can go undetected for a long time.
It may only be after a victim begins to display symptoms such as headaches,
memory loss, change of mood, or inability to concentrate that a diagnosis
gets made. Even then, finding and applying the right treatment can still
be a challenge to figure out.
It is true that we have learned an amazing amount about the brain in just
the past few decades, and the volume of information seems to grow exponentially
with each passing day thanks to research. Still, treatments remain very
much in the experimental realm. With each new advance comes new questions
requiring new research.
Hope for the Future for Brain Injury Victims
Fortunately, there are organizations like the Defense Advance Research
Projects Agency, which made it their mission to fund such trailblazing
work. One of the areas that is benefitting is the branch of neuroscience
called direct brain recording.
By implanting electrodes into a brain, scientists are finding they can
track how memories are formed in real time. The discovery raises the hope
that someday a device can be created that will reproduce the process and
help brain injury victims restore memories that have been lost due to damage.
As farfetched as it might seem, DARPA officials see enough merit in the
idea that they recently announced funding totaling $40 million. The challenge
is to see if the imagined "neuroprosthetic" can be become a
reality within the next four years and eventually help people who have
suffered memory loss due to brain injuries .
The idea for this kind of memory revival has been something that has reportedly
been promoted for the past few years by the likes of Theodore Berger,
a neuroscientist at the University of Southern California. While generally
considered radical, work by other California researchers suggest it might
For example, there is the sci-fi seeming work by scientists at the University
of California, San Diego. They found they could erase and restore memory
in some genetically engineered mice with a flash of light. There is also
the work by Columbia University Medical Center doctors that revealed that
by increasing the level of certain brain protein, memory in old mice could
be significantly improved.
Theory Behind the Research
The heart of the electrode research is the theory that all memories are
formed the same way—through the sequential firing of many neurons.
The belief is that brain trauma disrupts the sequence, disrupting the
memory. So, the premise is that perhaps electrode implants can encourage
neurons to build workarounds and restore memories.
As hopeful as all this sounds, the reality today is that it is still not
available. Current care and treatment of brain trauma costs significant
amounts of money and is usually required for the rest of a victim's
life. To be sure that those needs are met after an accident, an attorney
should be contacted to discuss your legal options.