‘Neuroprosthetic’ in development to ‘Restore Active Memory’ for PTSD, TBI

The continuing work in PTSD and TBI of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as DARPA, is developing on two tracks. The first is memory manipulation for those with PTSD–altering how a memory is formed. An international team is already investigating optogenetics, a biological technique that uses a light tool (AS-PaRac1–Activated Synapse Targeting Photoactivatable Rac1) to change procedural (action) memories, which are located in specific parts of the brain. The other is restoring memory–developing a neuroprosthetic that fills in the gaps for those with TBI, which affects declarative (factual) memory–storing and retrieving. Two universities, UCLA and Pennsylvania, have received grants up to $22 million over four years for research on an implantable neuroprosthetic. UCLA’s approach is to focus on the entorhinal area of the brain which researchers previously demonstrated could be stimulated and with the hippocampus is involved in learning and memory. Initial research is testing brain electrodes for epilepsy and to develop a computational model of the hippocampal-entorhinal system. Medtronic is using those models and as the newest partner, evaluating a novel neural stimulation and monitoring system to restore brain memory function. A true neuroprosthetic–consider an assistance chip on or near the brain–is years away. In the meantime, HDIAC Spotlight, DARPA (from 2014) and Executive.gov on the program in 2015.

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