Studies show that some 70 percent of patients who suffer traumatic brain injury (TBI) experience memory loss and or reduced memory capacity a full year after sustaining the injury. In fact, few TBI survivors every realize 100 percent memory recovery. And scores of these victims are the military servicemen and servicewomen who put their lives on the line to defend and protect our country. But a new device being developed by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) may offer promise.
As part of a major federal initiative dubbed the Restoring Active Memories (RAM) Program, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) awarded grants of up to $22.5 million to Penn and another $15 million to UCLA to help fund the development of a wireless, implantable device designed to help restore memory function in patients who have suffered TBI or other cognitive disorders. The devices will feature electronic interfaces that can sense memory deficits caused by injury and attempt to restore normal function and are being developed by teams of top-rated experts in neurosurgery, engineering, neurobiology, psychology and physics.
Development and testing of the new technology dubbed the “neuroprosthesis” in patients is expected to take about four years. But success can’t come soon enough, say patients, doctors and TBI attorneys. Statistics with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that TBI is a major cause of disability and death nationwide, contributing to upward of 30 percent of all injury-related deaths. It has been diagnosed in more than 270,000 military servicemembers since 2000 and affects an estimated 1.7 million US civilians each year. Besides memory loss, effects of TBI can include impaired cognitive, movement, sensory and emotional functioning.