The Pentagon is exploring the development of implantable probes that may one day help reverse some memory loss caused by brain injury.
The goal of the project, still in early stages, is to treat some of the more than 280,000 troops who have suffered brain injuries since 2000, including in combat in Iraq andAfghanistan.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is focused on wounded veterans, though some research may benefit others such as seniors with dementia or athletes with brain injuries, said Geoff Ling, a physician and deputy director of Darpa’s Defense Sciences office.
It’s still far from certain that such work will result in an anti-memory-loss device. Still, word of the project is creating excitement after more than a decade of failed attempts to develop drugs to treat brain injury and memory loss.
“The way human memory works is one of the great unsolved mysteries,” said Andres Lozano, chairman of neurosurgery at the University of Toronto.
“This has tremendous value from a basic science aspect. It may have huge implications for patients with disorders affecting memory, including those with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”
At least 1.7 million people in the U.S. are diagnosed with memory loss each year, costing the nation’s economy more than $76 billion annually, according to the most recent federal health data.
The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates it will spend $4.2 billion to care for former troops with brain injuries between fiscal 2013 and 2022.