Memory Implants

2014--1109 Memory ImplantOne of the more haunting aspects of Ridley Scott’s 1982 film “Bladerunner” is its treatment of memory. Key characters have had their memories implanted, so that they don’t know whether what they recall of their past is genuine or a manipulated artifact. I’m thinking about this because a recent effort from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) brings up the situation in reverse. What if you lost your memory but could have it restored by an implant?

Scott’s film was science fiction but DARPA’s contracts to the University of Pennsylvania and University of California, Los Angeles are anything but. For four years, researchers at the schools are going to be looking at how we can come up with a prosthetic memory device. That’s right, a memory prosthesis that can be as effective at restoring memories as an artificial leg can be at helping a wounded soldier walk. In fact, the initial DARPA target is to help veterans with brain injuries, of which, says DARPA, there are some 270,000 since the year 2000

Paul A. Gilster is the author of several books on technology. Reach him at


Click here to read another Beyond Injury post.

Thanks to Paul Gilster for writing the article; Newsobserver for committing its resources to publishing the article; DARPA for funding the study; UCLA and the University of Pennsylvania for conducting the research; Google for helping me find the article; and all the other people who, directly or indirectly, made it possible to include the picture and text in this post.

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