Home >> Lifestyle

UCLA project to restore brain injury patients' memories gets DARPA funding

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has given the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Program in Memory Restoration 15 million dollars for a four-year project that aims to help in the restoration of the loss of memory function in patients suffering from brain-injury.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), traumatic brain injury (TBI) has turned out to be major reason responsible for disability and death in the US and it is also behind about 30 percent of all deaths connected to injury. TBI can cause impaired thinking, sensation, movement, emotional functioning and memory.

TBI can be caused by a blow, bump or jolt to the head. But not all blows to the head causes a TBI, however when they do, it disrupts the normal functioning of the brain.

Dr. Itzhak Fried, who is the lead investigator for the UCLA project and a professor of neurosurgery and psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, stated losing the ability to recollect past incidents and form new memories is one of the most feared illnesses of the human condition.

Fried's research, in the year 2012, suggested that by stimulating the entorhinal area of the brain, which is known to be involved in learning, memory and Alzheimer's disease, human memory could be supported. The entorhinal cortex is considered as the entrance to the hippocampus, the region that helps to form and store memories, and plays an important part in converting day-to-day incidences into long lasting memories.

Fried's research team along with UCLA's Mayank Mehta, a professor of physics and astronomy and neurobiology, together with Gabriel Kreiman, associate professor at Harvard Medical School, will develop computational models of how to intervene with complex electrical stimulation to aid in restoration of memory function.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) will be given 2.5 million dollars separately by DARPA as part of the project to develop an implantable neural that will record and stimulate neurons within the brain to help restore memory function.

UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science researchers led by Dejan Markovic, an associate professor of electrical engineering together with LLNL and Stanford University engineers, will work on to develop the electronics to be implanted in the neuromodulation device. The neuromodulation device may aid in better comprehension of how memories are formed in areas of the brain, and help lessen the effect of memory disorders.

Around 2.5 million emergency department (ED) hospitalizations, visits or deaths were related to TBI in the year 2010.