"We think that we can develop neuroprosthetic devices that can directly interface with the hippocampus, and can restore the first type of memories we are looking at, the declarative memories," he said.
Declarative memories are recollections of people, events, facts and figures, and no research has ever shown they can be put back once they are lost.
What researchers have been able to do so far is help reduce tremors in people with Parkinson's disease, cut back on seizures among epileptics and even boost memory in some Alzheimer's patients through a process called deep brain stimulation.
Those devices were inspired by cardiac pacemakers, and pulse electricity into the brain much like a steady drum beat, but they don't work for everyone. Experts say a much more nuanced approach is needed when it comes to restoring memory.
"Memory is patterns and connections," explained Robert Hampson, an associate professor at Wake Forest University. "For us to come up with a memory prosthetic, we would actually have to have something that delivers specific patterns," said Hampson, adding that he could not comment specifically on DARPA's plans.