Health

Pentagon Spending $40 Million to Improve Memory of War Vets

| by Paul Brown

What was once thought to be possible only in science fiction movies is on the verge of being achieved by the scientists working for the Pentagon.

The Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is undergoing a $40 million project with the goal of developing implants meant to improve the memories of war veterans with traumatic brain injuries.

The groundbreaking project, which has been dubbed the Restoring Active Memory program, was inspired by a recent statistic that startled some members of the government who spearheaded the project.

There are an approximated 270,000 war veterans who continue to suffer from brain trauma following their service in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, respectively. These quarter million war veterans could be helped greatly if the Restoring Active Memory program is a success.

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As described by Newser, the technology the Pentagon is currently developing relies on "direct brain recording, a shorthand for probing the brain to listen to its chatter". This technology is being developed by researchers at Penn University and UCLA University, respectively.

The researchers at both universities will utilize brain implant technology, but to slightly different ends. As Newser puts it, "UCLA will focus on the area of the brain that turns daily life into long-term memory, while Penn will use electrodes to look for 'biomarkers' of functional memory, patterns that accompany the creation of new memories and the retrieval of old ones."

The individual plans being developed by each university utilize groundbreaking neuro-prosthetic technology that, if successful, could change the face of modern medicine.

While this technology could be used immediately to help veterans regain part of their necessary cognitive functioning, it is also possible that this technology could help the public at large. If everything goes according to plan, these brain implants could help those with dementia, those who have suffered a stroke, or anyone who suffers from any type of brain trauma.

While this program has many veterans feeling optimistic, there are some critics. “When working with the brain, you have to keep slapping yourself in the face as a reality check; we still understand so little,” points out the chief of neurosurgery at Albany Hospital, according to the New York Times.