The White House announced the BRAIN initiative in April 2013. Today, the initiative is supported by several federal agencies as well as dozens of technology firms, academic institutions, scientists and other key contributors to the field of neuroscience. DARPA is supporting the BRAIN initiative through a number of programs, continuing a legacy of DARPA investment in neurotechnology that extends back to the 1970s. An article in our 60th anniversary magazine provides an overview of the agency's recent research aimed at expanding the frontiers of the field and enabling powerful, new capabilities.
Electrical Prescriptions (ElectRx)
The ElectRx program aims to help the human body heal itself through neuromodulation of organ functions using ultraminiaturized devices, approximately the size of individual nerve fibers, which could be delivered through minimally invasive injection.
Hand Proprioception and Touch Interfaces (HAPTIX)
The HAPTIX program aims to create fully implantable, modular and reconfigurable neural-interface microsystems that communicate wirelessly with external modules, such as a prosthesis interface link, to deliver naturalistic sensations to amputees.
Neural Engineering System Design (NESD)
The NESD program aims to develop an implantable neural interface able to provide unprecedented signal resolution and data-transfer bandwidth between the brain and the digital world.
Neuro Function, Activity, Structure and Technology (Neuro-FAST)
The Neuro-FAST program seeks to enable unprecedented visualization and decoding of brain activity to better characterize and mitigate threats to the human brain, as well as facilitate development of brain-in-the loop systems to accelerate and improve functional behaviors. The program has developed CLARITY, a revolutionary tissue-preservation method, and builds off recent discoveries in genetics, optical recordings and brain-computer interfaces.
Next-Generation Nonsurgical Neurotechnology (N3)
The N3 program aims to develop a safe, portable neural interface system capable of reading from and writing to multiple points in the brain at once. Whereas the most advanced existing neurotechnology requires surgical implantation of electrodes, N3 is pursuing high-resolution technology that works without the requirement for surgery so that it can be used by able-bodied people.
Reliable Neural-Interface Technology (RE-NET) (Archived)
The RE-NET program seeks to develop the technologies needed to reliably extract information from the nervous system, and to do so at a scale and rate necessary to control complex machines, such as high-performance prosthetic limbs.
Restoring Active Memory (RAM)
The RAM program aims to develop and test a wireless, fully implantable neural-interface medical device for human clinical use. The device would facilitate the formation of new memories and retrieval of existing ones in individuals who have lost these capacities as a result of traumatic brain injury or neurological disease.
Restoring Active Memory – Replay (RAM Replay)
The RAM Replay program will investigate the role of neural “replay” in the formation and recall of memory, with the goal of helping individuals better remember specific episodic events and learned skills. The program aims to develop novel and rigorous computational methods to help investigators determine not only which brain components matter in memory formation and recall, but also how much they matter.
The Revolutionizing Prosthetics program aims to continue increasing functionality of DARPA-developed arm systems to benefit Service members and others who have lost upper limbs. The dexterous hand capabilities developed under the program have already been applied to small robotic systems used to manipulate unexploded ordnance, reducing the risk of limb loss among Soldiers.
Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies (SUBNETS)
The SUBNETS program seeks to create implanted, closed-loop diagnostic and therapeutic systems for treating neuropsychological illnesses.
Targeted Neuroplasticity Training (TNT)
The TNT program seeks to advance the pace and effectiveness of cognitive skills training through the precise activation of peripheral nerves that can in turn promote and strengthen neuronal connections in the brain. TNT will pursue development of a platform technology to enhance learning of a wide range of cognitive skills, with a goal of reducing the cost and duration of the Defense Department’s extensive training regimen, while improving outcomes.
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