The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has launched a new programme to help military personnel better remember specific episodic events and learned skills.
The two-year fundamental research programme, Restoring Active Memory Replay (RAM Replay), aims to develop rigorous computational methods that will help investigators determine, which brain components are important in memory formation and recall, and to what extent they are involved in the process.
DARPA programme manager Dr Justin Sanchez said: "Military personnel carry a growing responsibility to recount, report and act upon knowledge gleaned from previous experiences. How well those experiences are recalled can make all the difference in how well these individuals perform in combat and other challenging situations.
"The timeframe between a given experience and subsequent reporting or use of the memory can range from hours to months to years.
"During this time, physiological, environmental and behavioural factors can affect the process by which an individual’s representation of the experience is consolidated into memory, potentially affecting the accessibility and accuracy of the memory and one’s ability to make use of ‘lessons learned’ later on."
Computational methods developed under the project, will be validated through performance on US Department of Defense-relevant tasks, instead of legacy computer-based behavioural paradigms, which are commonly used to assess memory in laboratory settings to help ensure real-world relevance.
New knowledge and paradigms for memory assessment and formation can translate into improved rehabilitation and recovery for injured soldiers challenged by post trauma or memory impairment.
According results gathered from human studies, various physiological or environmental factors may affect mechanisms of memory formation, consolidation and retrieval, calling for development of evidence-based means of harnessing the brain’s own replay system to improve the strength and fidelity of memory.
Sanchez said: "In the long run, we hope RAM Replay will identify core memory-strengthening mechanisms and give rise to a generalisable set of solutions applicable to the challenge of memory reliability in an increasingly information-dense world.
"That could benefit civilians and service members alike in areas as diverse as general education, job retraining and battlefield awareness."
Image: The RAM programme may accelerate rehabilitation post trauma or memory impairment, and enable warfighter training. Photo: courtesy of DARPA.