A patient with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis received a brain implant for the first time in the US, reported Bloomberg. A device with a length of almost 4 cm, consisting of wires and electrodes, was placed in a vessel of the brain. Scientists hope that a patient who has lost the ability to write and speak will be able to use the Internet and communicate via text messages. The implant will translate his thoughts into commands that will be sent to a computer.
The neurointerface was developed by the startup Synchron. Their developments have already been implanted in four patients in Australia, who experienced no side effects and were able to communicate via WhatsApp and make online purchases. This procedure was the first in the USA. Synchron managed to outpace competitors – including Elon Musk’s company Neuralink.
The peculiarity of Synchron implants is that for their installation in the brain it is not necessary to cut the skull and damage the tissues. The doctor makes an incision in the patient’s neck and passes a stentrode – a hollow cylindrical wire mesh – through a catheter through the jugular vein to a vessel in the motor cortex. When the catheter is removed, the stentrode unfolds and begins to fuse with the outer edges of the vessel. The whole process takes a few minutes.
The stentrode is then connected by a wire to a computer device implanted in the patient’s chest. To do this, the surgeon creates a tunnel under the skin for the wire and a pocket for the device, similar to how they do when installing a pacemaker. The stentrode reads brain signals, and the device amplifies them and transmits them to a computer or smartphone via Bluetooth.
Stentrode uses 16 electrodes to monitor brain activity. Over time, its effectiveness increases as the device penetrates deeper into the vessel and gets closer to the neurons.
The patient from the USA decided to remain anonymous until he experiences the advantages and disadvantages of the implant. Doctors and researchers believe that the device has significant potential, as it can be used by the patient at home without the constant supervision of doctors.