New York startup pioneers brain-computer connection technology


Published: 2023-08-20 22:38

Last Updated: 2024-04-13 21:29

New York startup pioneers brain-computer connection technology
New York startup pioneers brain-computer connection technology

New York-based startup Synchron creates a pioneering technology that enables paralyzed patients to control computers with their brains, thanks to an 8-mm stent, the "stentrode", implanted in the brain to detect neural activity.

A Melbourne resident living with ALS, shares his thoughts with AFP, by using his eyes to pinpoint letters on a screen and "clicking" on words with his mind.

"The opportunity to bring back the ability to communicate on someone's own terms is not only the humane thing to do... it's also medically necessary from a physical health standpoint," says Dr David Putrino, who oversaw the medical trial at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.

Synchron hopes to get approval next year from health authorities to market a final version of the device.

-ALS patient pioneering brain-computer connection-

As a rare form of Lou Gehrig's disease paralyzes his body, Rodney Gorham hopes a pioneering link between his brain and a computer will help others after he is gone.

The 63-year-old Australian shared his thoughts by using his eyes to pinpoint letters on a screen and "clicking" on words with his mind.

Thanks to an eight-millimeter stent implanted in his brain to detect neural activity, Gorham hopes to continue going online, sending messages and playing video games for a long time to come.

US company Synchron has been testing the "stentrode" for the past two years, getting cleared for human trials before Elon Musk's attention-grabbing Neuralink startup.

Gorham's implant connects to a small receiver and transmitter unit under the skin in his chest, and he credits it with changing his life.

Several years ago, Gorham was diagnosed with ALS, which causes progressive paralysis of the respiratory muscles, trunk, arms and legs.

The disorder is expected to gradually disable his movement, but not to kill him, according to his wife, Carolyn.

"So he could live for another 20 years. So think about if your body didn't move at all, your brain still firing at the same rate," she said.

"And you can't scratch your nose. You can't tell somebody you want to scratch your nose."

The brain implant gives her husband a "slice of life", letting him at least communicate or play a game, Carolyn Gorham added.

Rodney Gorham has given up on video games that require quick reactions typically made with handheld controllers or a computer mouse, but is still playing turn-based ones such as city-building games, according to his wife.

Without the experimental technology, the life of the sports car- and travel-loving former salesman "would be pure torture", Carolyn Gorham said.