The challenges facing each veteran in his or her life after service can be difficult to face alone. From finding employment to successfully reintegrating into peacetime society, injuries sustained in combat can make the transition to civilian life hard to navigate. However, when it comes to traumatic brain injuries, the goals are a bit different. The aim of military retirement becomes quality of life, and the Pentagon is throwing the full weight of its research and development department into finding a solution for the many problems that plague TBI patients.

DARPA seeks proposals
Stars and Stripes reported that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is accepting proposals from technology firms for the development of a wireless implant device that would aid veterans who have suffered memory loss as the result of a combat brain injury. DARPA seeks a device that would use implantable probes to monitor brain activity, as well as stimulate nerves to reactivate memories that were lost due to severe trauma.

"The way human memory works is one of the great unsolved mysteries," Andreas Lozano, chairman of neurosurgery at the University of Toronto, told Stars and Stripes. "This has tremendous value from a basic science aspect. It may have huge implications for patients with disorders affecting memory, including those with dementia and Alzheimer's disease."

While the project may result in helpful information regarding many other conditions, this initiative would not specifically seek to help patients recall pieces of information like names and address that slip away due to degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's. Rather, it would help veterans retrieve information related to motor skills and basic tasks to improve their quality of life.

Traumatic brain injury and the military
Brain injuries have historically been brushed off or misdiagnosed as "shellshock" or other common terms, when in reality a serious injury has occurred. The Brain Trauma Foundation explained that anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have suffered some degree of TBI. The numbers could run as high as 300,000 troops, while among soldiers identified as wounded, the preponderance of TBI spikes to 33 percent.

 mTBI, often referred to as a concussion, can be difficult to separate from its more injurious variant. TBI generally manifests itself with short term symptoms like headaches, nausea, slurred speech and confusion. Long term symptoms include difficulty remaining attentive, dramatic changes in behavior and alexithymia, or trouble identifying and processing the emotions of the self or others.

The DARPA proposal is part of President Barack Obama's Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.