A revolutionary endovascular brain-computer interface (BCI) has been developed that offers hope to patients suffering from severe paralysis, allowing them to control a computer using only their thoughts. This technology has been in development for years and is now being tested in clinical trials, with the first permanent implant being performed on a patient with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as motor neuron disease.
The development of this groundbreaking treatment is being led by Synchron, a startup based in Australia. The company has created a novel approach to the BCI procedure called the Stentrode. The Stentrode is implanted through the jugular vein and snaked through the transverse sinus and into a secondary area called the superior sagittal sinus. This procedure is less invasive than other BCI techniques, as it does not require opening of the skull, and implanted devices produce no scarring.
The electrode embedded inside the stent records brain activity from the motor cortex, and the information is transmitted to a pacemaker-like unit that sits in the patient’s chest, relaying signals to an external monitoring unit plugged into a computer. The algorithms then decode the brain signals into practical computer functions, such as clicking a mouse.
This device is expected to help those diagnosed with conditions such as ALS, stroke, and paralysis caused by accidents or a range of diseases. It offers hope to many people whose lives have been drastically impacted by their conditions and who are unable to complete everyday tasks.
The FDA has given Synchron the green light to conduct an early feasibility study to assess the safety and efficacy of the Stentrode in six ALS patients with severe paralysis, meaning no functional use of their limbs. The study is being conducted with support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Neural Interfaces Program.
The endovascular BCI has the potential to change the way many neurological disorders and mental illnesses are diagnosed and treated. The brain-computer interface is an example of the kind of tool that will be used increasingly as we unlock the potential of the brain. It could assist medical professionals in treating conditions previously thought untreatable and help those with severe physical disabilities to live a more independent life.
The use of a brain-computer interface is not new. The first brain-computer interface was developed over fifty years ago by Jose Delgado, a Spanish psychiatrist and neuroscientist. He fitted electrodes into the brains of animals and even humans, broadcasting the signals from the electrodes over radio signals.
Since Delgado’s work, brain-computer interfaces have continued evolving. The interface manages communication between the brain and a computer or machine. This communication exchange is either one-way or two-way, depending on the tasks that the interface is being used for.
In the field of medicine, BCIs offer a range of possibilities. Electroencephalography (EEG) is currently being used for communication, movement, and medical purposes through BCIs. The most widely used BCIs for movement and communication are EEG systems, which rely on the detection of activity from the brain’s surface. These systems have been used to allow paralyzed patients to type two to three words per minute.
In addition to helping paralyzed patients regain mobility, the endovascular BCI, with its ability to monitor a patient’s brain activity, could prove invaluable in the diagnosis and treatment of other diseases. By creating a direct connection between the brain and a computer, medical professionals can detect abnormal activity, may aid in detecting and diagnosing illnesses quickly.
One of the potential applications of BCIs is providing a window into the workings of the brain, helping experts understand mental illness and neurological disorders better. This improved understanding could help researchers develop new treatments and therapies to address the underlying causes of mental illness and neurological disorders.
BCIs are not without their risks, and this is why the Stentrode system is so groundbreaking. By avoiding the need for invasive surgery, it circumvents some of the most significant risks involved with this type of procedure. However, this does not mean that there are no risks involved. There is always a chance of complications, such as infection, pain, or bleeding, depending on the procedure performed.
Regardless of the risks, patients with neurological disorders and mental illnesses are excited about the potential for a breakthrough in treating these conditions. The fact that the FDA has approved clinical trials to test the Stentrode in humans is a clear indication of the urgency companies and the medical community have to push this technology forward. The Stentrode opens up possibilities for patients who had previously thought their cases were hopeless.
The endovascular BCI is a new dawn for the medical world, offering fresh hope to patients who have struggled with paralysis for years. With the potential to unlock previously untreatable medical conditions, this technology could revolutionize medicine. While there are still unknowns and potential for risks, the use of BCIs and the Stentrode is an essential step forward.