DARPA and the BRAIN Initiative

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) mission is to create breakthrough technologies for US national security and to protect the health of U.S. service members and veterans.

To better address the health needs of service members and veterans, DARPA has launched four programs that support the goals of the BRAIN Initiative: RAM (Restoring Active Memory), RAM Replay, HAPTIX (Hand Proprioception and Touch Interfaces), and SUBNETS (Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies).

RAM Replay, a DARPA program

The RAM (Restoring Active Memory) Replay DARPA research program aims to investigate the role of neural “replay” in the formation and recall of memory. The goal is to help individuals better remember specific episodic events and learned skills. The military application is to improve rehabilitation and recovery for injured warfighters challenged by impaired memory.

The program is designed to develop “novel, rigorous computational methods to help investigators determine which brain components matter in memory formation and recall, and how much they matter.”

HAPTIX, a DARPA program

Despite recent advances in technology for upper-limb prostheses, artificial arms and hands are still unable to provide users with sensory feedback. DARPA has awarded prime contracts for Phase 1 of its Hand Proprioception and Touch Interfaces (HAPTIX) program.

HAPTIX seeks to create a prosthetic hand system that moves and provides sensation like a natural hand. Sensory feedback, especially from the hand, is vitally important for many functions, and HAPTIX seeks to create a sensory experience so rich and vibrant that users would want to wear their prostheses full time.

RAM, DARPA program

Through the Restoring Active Memory (RAM) program, DARPA seeks to accelerate the development of technology able to address this public health challenge and help servicemembers and others overcome memory deficits by developing new neuroprosthetics to bridge gaps in the injured brain.

The end goal of RAM is to develop and test a wireless, fully implantable neural-interface medical device for human clinical use, but a number of significant advances will be targeted on the way to achieving that goal."

SUBNETS, a DARPA Program

The Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies (SUBNETS) was created in response to a pressing need. Despite the continued best efforts of the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to protect the health of U.S. servicemembers and veterans, the effects of neuropsychological illness brought on by war, traumatic injuries, and other experiences remain challenging to treat.

The SUBNETS vision is distinct from current therapeutic approaches in that it seeks to create an implanted, closed-loop diagnostic and therapeutic system for treating, and possibly even curing, neuropsychological illness.

Justin Sanchez, PhD – DARPA

DARPA program manager exploring neurotechnology, brain science and systems neurobiology, formerly Director of the Neuroprosthetics Research Group at Miami
Ex Officio Member of Multi-Council Working Group

Dr. Sanchez has developed new methods for signal analysis and processing techniques for studying the unknown aspects of neural coding and functional neurophysiology. His experience covers in vivo electrophysiology for brain-machine interface design in animals and humans.

Geoffrey Ling, MD, PhD – DARPA

Director, Biological Technologies Office, DARPA
Ex Officio member of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director

Drl Ling's Revolutionizing Prosthetics program developed advanced arm prostheses controlled either non-invasively or directly by a user’s brain. His Preventing Violent Explosive Neuro Trauma program developed new understanding and treatment of blast-induced traumatic brain injury (TBI). He has spent his career providing critical care to patients suffering from neurological trauma (TBI).

James Giordano, PhD – Georgetown

Chief of the Neuroethics Studies Program in the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics
Professor, Department of Neurology
Senior Science Advisory Fellow, DOD

Dr. Giordano's research focuses upon the use of advanced neurotechnologies to explore the neurobiology of pain and other neuropsychiatric spectrum disorders; the neuroscience of moral decision-making, and the neuroethical issues arising from the use of neuroscience and neurotechnology in research, clinical medicine, public life, international relations and policy, and national security and defense.

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