Thousands of people worldwide suffer from uncontrollable and frustrating memory loss – but perhaps, not for long. According to recent reports, a group of highly secretive, state of the art, researchers are set to announce that they are developing an implant that will restore memory.
The announcement may seem a bit futuristic, but it is still in its beginning phases. As described by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), they are trying to develop the prototype via the funds of $100 million made available by Obama in an effort to greater understand the mind.
The research is already receiving its fair share of controversy as it seeks to bend certain ethical principles throughout development and if truly discovered. DARPA however seems to have the hope for the best as their intentions seem to be pure.
According to DARPA program manager Justin Sanchez, “If you have been injured in the line of duty and you can’t remember your family, we want to be able to restore those kinds of functions.” Describing the help they may one day be able to offer the current 300,000 veterans that suffer from memory loss, he adds, “We think that we can develop neuroprosthetic devices that can directly interface with the hippocampus, and can restore the first type of memories we are looking at, the declarative memories.”
The program however seems to be in its initial stages as DARPA researchers convey that the process is rather complex. Although they describe that they are having enlightening progress with rodents and primates, there is still quite a ways to go.
An associate professor at Wake Forest University, Robert Hampson, explained that, “Memory is patterns and connections. For us to come up with a memory prosthetic, we would actually have to have something that delivers specific patterns.”
He further shared, “The idea is to restore a function back to normal or near normal of the memory processing areas of the brain so that the person can access their formed memories, and so that they can form new memories as needed”
As previously mentioned however, the good has been weighed its fair share by those expressing ethical concerns. According to medical ethicist at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, Arthur Caplan, “It’s easy to see how manipulating memories in people could open up an ethical minefield. When you fool around with the brain you are fooling around with personal identity.”
Furthermore, as mankind seeks to understand, and ultimately map, the brain, this kind of technology will be allowed to work both ways and perhaps even further than intentioned. The implant may have the ability to entirely delete or even alter memories as well.
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According to Caplan, “When it comes to soldiers, the potential for erasing memories or inserting new ones could interfere with combat techniques, make warriors more violent and less conscientious, or even thwart investigations into war crimes.”
So what do you guys think – does the good this could bring to the world outweigh the bad that certain higher-ups may chose to abuse? Let us know in a comment below.