In what is being called a “major step forward” for handicapped people, a company soon will help a patient send text messages – by thinking them.
A report in Bloomberg explained the work being done by Synchron to develop a brain-computer interface that can be implanted.
The first such implantation already has been done in the U.S.
The report explained it was on July 6 that a doctor at Mount Sinai West medical center in New York implanted a tiny device of wires and electrodes into a patient with ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which also is known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The report said, “The hope is that the patient, who’s lost the ability to move and speak, will be able to surf the web and communicate via email and text simply by thinking—the device will translate his thoughts into commands sent to a computer.”
The maker previously implanted four people in Australia and they’ve not yet had side effects. But they have been able “to carry out such tasks as sending WhatsApp messages and making online purchases.”
The recent surgery was a first for the U.S, and neurointerventional surgeon Shahram Majidi said it was special because of the potential.
Synchron’s device is called the stentrode and can be implanted without the major trauma, required by some other processes, of cutting through the skull.
“A doctor makes an incision in the patient’s neck and feeds the stentrode via a catheter through the jugular vein into a blood vessel nestled within the motor cortex. As the catheter is removed, the stentrode—a cylindrical, hollow wire mesh—opens up and begins to fuse with the outer edges of the vessel. According to Majidi, the process is very similar to implanting a coronary stent and takes just a few minutes,” the Bloomberg report said.
Another procedure links the stentrode to a computing device implanted in the patient’s chest.
Bloomberg said it took several years of work for Synchron to get permission to do the first U.S. implant from the Food and Drug Administration.
The case is the first in a six-person, $10 million trial that U.S. taxpayers are funding.
The report said, “The technology remains in its early stages of development, and the trial is meant to focus more on how the human body reacts to the implant and how clear the brain signals are than on the functions a person can perform with the device.”
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