Imagine hardware implanted in your brain to help with memory. According to Justin Sanchez, program director of DARPA’s Restoring Active Memory (RAM) project, this technology may be just around the corner.

Once considered to be on the fringes of neuroscience, research into memory prosthetics is gaining momentum, thanks in part to DAPRA’s US$30 million investment as part of the Obama administration’s Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies initiative.

This work builds on the inspiring success of neural prosthetics, which now allow paralyzed people to move robotic limbs, deaf people to hear through cochlear implants, and those with epilepsy to avoid seizures. In each case, a device interacts directly with the brain, substituting or compensating for a damaged component. Researchers hope to apply this to memory circuitry, which degrades precipitously in Alzheimer’s disease or can be damaged by TBI. The efforts are pushing the limits of understanding human memory and electronics alike.