US DARPA to Develop Brain Memory Stimulators

July 8, 2014

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. restore /rɪˈstɔr, -ˈstoʊr/ (v.) – to make something exist again or back in its original form
Example: The invention can restore many details of one’s childhood memory.

2. stimulator /ˈstɪmjəˌletər/ (n.) – anything that makes something happen
Example: Regular exercise can be an immune system stimulator.

3. ethicist /ˈɛθəsɪst/ (n.) – a person who specializes or dedicates himself/herself to ethics
Example: Some medical ethicists refuse to believe the new theory.

4. tinker /ˈtɪŋkər/ (v.) – to fix or repair something by doing minor changes
Example: Researchers tinkered with the machine after it failed to start.

5. competent /ˈkɒmpɪtənt/ (adj.) – having enough skills and experience in a specific profession
Example: Most of the scientists who participated in the experiment are competent.


Read the text below.
Restoring one’s memories can now be possible with the development of brain implants.

In a conference in Washington D.C., the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) revealed a device that will serve as memory stimulator. This device is targeted at soldiers who suffered from brain damage and experienced illnesses like Alzheimer’s [AHLTS-hahy-merz] disease. 

According to the agency’s program manager Justin Sanchez, the team will develop neuroprosthetic [nyoor-uh pros-THET-ik] devices that can restore declarative memories, which pertain to knowledge on facts and identity.  The device will be placed in the inner part of the brain called the hippocampus [hip-uh-KAM-puhs]. The hippocampus collects and stores personal memories. DARPA expects the stimulators to be available after four years.

DARPA’s project is just one of U.S. President Barack Obama’s plans to widen the scientific researches on human brain. Last year, Obama announced the government’s $100 million investment on a brain research project called Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (or BRAIN) Initiative.

The White House said the BRAIN Initiative will open new doors to medical studies that can help simplify the understanding of human behavior and learning processes.

However, medical ethicists argue that tinkering with a person’s brain can change one’s identity. Arthur Caplan, medical ethicist at New York University’s Langone [lang-GON] Medical Center, fears the device will erase a soldier’s memories. This can lead to a loss of personality and knowledge about important facts.

On the other hand, Sanchez assures that competent scientists will handle the project. Sanchez said the device will be formally announced later this year.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you approve of the memory stimulator device? Why or why not?
·         How do you think this device can help brain researches in the future?

Discussion B

·         What do you think are the causes of memory loss?
·         How do you think people can avoid brain diseases?

July 8, 2014