Developing a Memory Prosthesis

Excerpt of Article by Kim Irwin | UCLA

As part of a major federal initiative, UCLA has been awarded $15M to create a wireless, implantable device that could restore memory to millions.

2014-1118 RAM_thmbUCLA has been tapped by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to spearhead an innovative project aimed at developing a wireless, implantable brain device that could help restore lost memory function in individuals who have suffered debilitating brain injuries and other disorders.

The four-year effort, to be led by UCLA’s Program in Memory Restoration and funded by up to $15 million from DARPA, will involve a team of experts in neurosurgery, engineering, neurobiology, psychology and physics who will collaborate to create, surgically implant and test the new “neuroprosthesis” in patients.

Memory is the process by which neurons in certain brain regions encode information, store it and retrieve it. Various illnesses and injuries can disrupt this process, causing memory loss. Tramautic brain injury, which has affected more than 270,000 military members since 2000, as well as millions of civilians, is often associated with such memory deficits. Currently, no effective therapies exist to address the long-term affects of these injuries on memory.

Lawrence Livermore will be awarded a separate $2.5 million grant from DARPA to build the device, which will have the ability to record and stimulate neurons to help restore memory.

“Currently, there is no effective treatment for memory loss caused by a condition such as traumatic brain injury,” said Lawrence Livermore project leader Satinderpall Pannu, director of the lab’s Center for Bioengineering, a facility dedicated to fabricating biocompatible neural interfaces. “This is a tremendous opportunity from DARPA to leverage Lawrence Livermore’s unique capabilities to develop cutting-edge medical devices that will change the health care landscape.”

According to Dr. Itzhak Fried, a professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, “at the end of the day, it is the suffering individual, whether an injured member of the armed forces or a patient with Alzheimer’s disease, who is at the center of our thoughts and efforts.”

Credits

Click here to read another Beyond Injury post.

Thanks to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for funding the project; UCLA and all the other facilities involved in the project; Kim Irwin for writing the article; Google for helping me find the article; and all the other people, who directly or indirectly, made it possible for me to include the picture and text I used in this post.

Kim Irwin can be reached at

 

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