After being fed through the jugular vein, a small “thought-controlled” device can record brain A small experiment showed activity from a nearby blood vessel, thus eliminating the need for doctors to open the skull.
The device, called the Stentrode, is designed to allow paralyzed people to operate assistive technologies using only their thoughts. For example, participants in the experiment used the device to compose text messages and emails and to do online banking and shopping, according to a new report published Monday (January 9) in the journal. JAMA Neurology (Opens in a new tab). (Early data from the trial was also presented in March 2022 at the 74th annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Seattle.)
While other mind-reading devices designed for similar purposes are typically placed on top of or in the brain during open-brain surgery, doctors can implant a Stentrode without having to open a patient’s skull, the trial organizers wrote in the report.
“The blood vessels of the brain offer a less invasive route to the motor cortex,” they write, an area on the wrinkled surface of the brain involved in motor control.
The team previously showed that the Stentrode could be used in animals to record signals from the brain and deliver electrical stimulation to the organ, according to Royal Melbourne Hospital (Opens in a new tab) In Australia, an institution involved in the trial. The recent human clinical trial — known as the Stentrode With Thought-Controlled Digital Switch (SWITCH) study — was the first to test the device in people.
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The experiment involved four men of European descent with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive disease that causes the death of nerve cells that control voluntary movement. At the time of enrollment, all trial participants had severe paralysis of the upper extremities and varying degrees of lung function and speech impairment.
Each participant placed a Stentrode in the superior sagittal sinus, which is a large vein that drains fluid from the brain into the jugular and is located adjacent to the motor cortex. The device itself is made of a mesh-like material that contains 16 electrodes; Doctors insert the device into the body using a catheter and, once in place, expand the mesh so that it latches onto the walls of the sinuses, according to March 2022. statment (Opens in a new tab) From Synchron, the implantable brain-computer interface (BCI) company behind Stentrode. A wire runs from the electrodes to a small electronic device in the chest, which wirelessly transmits brain signals recorded by the device to a computer.
“All patients tolerated the procedure well, and are usually discharged home within 48 hours,” the co-principal investigator said Dr. Peter Mitchell (Opens in a new tab)Director of Neurointervention at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, speaking separately statment. The JAMA report indicated that only one of the four patients remained in the hospital for an additional day before being discharged.
The most common side effects were headache and bruising at the incision sites, and no one experienced severe side effects during or after the procedure. And at the 1-year follow-up period, no participants experienced thromboembolism (blood clotting); vascular occlusion; organ “migration”, ie, organ movement in the body; or any other serious side effects related to the device that could lead to death or permanent disability.
Furthermore, “the BCI maintained a stable signal throughout the study, and all participants successfully controlled a computer with a BCI,” the authors report.
The team concluded, “The safety and feasibility data from the first human study indicate that it is possible to record neural signals from a blood vessel, and an appropriate safety profile could promote broader and faster translation of BCI for paralyzed subjects.”