- Brain-computer interfaces have the potential to eventually help restore functionality to those with paralysis and other conditions.
- The pattern recognition and predictive abilities of deep learning algorithms can help decode brain recordings at a more rapid pace than humans.
- A clinical trial to evaluate an endovascular brain-computer interface for patients with severe paralysis just enrolled its first human subject.
In an industry-first, the company Synchron and Mount Sinai Hospital in New York have enrolled their first human patient in a U.S. clinical trial called COMMAND to evaluate an endovascular brain-computer interface (BCI) for patients with severe paralysis.
Brain-computer interfaces offer hope to those with loss of functionality due to paralysis, epilepsy, brain injury, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other conditions to live better lives.
The industry for brain-computer interfaces has come a long way since the term was coined by Professor Jacques Vidal at the University of California at Los Angeles in 1973. Other names for BCIs are brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) or direct neural interfaces. Artificial intelligence (AI) machine learning has helped accelerate progress. The pattern recognition and predictive capabilities of deep learning algorithms have helped decode complex brain recordings at a more rapid pace than human technicians.
Synchron is a privately-held brain interface platform company headquartered in New York City with offices in Silicon Valley, California and research facilities in Melbourne, Australia. Its competitors include Bryan Johnson’s Kernel, Elon Musk’s Neuralink, Paradromics, Neurable, Blackrock Neurotech, and more companies.
Synchron was founded by CEO Thomas Oxley, M.D., and CTO Nicholas Opie in April of 2016, according to Crunchbase. In the six years following its founding, Synchron has achieved a number of important breakthroughs. In 2016, Synchron used stentrode™ to produce the first chronic brain recording of a vascular ECoG from inside a sheep’s blood vessel. These findings were published in Nature Biotechnology. Two years later, Synchron showed how localized brain stimulation can be achieved via a blood vessel and does not require open brain surgery. The stentrode™ is a minimally invasive electrode array similar to ta stent that can record or stimulate the brain or nerves from within the blood vessels (endovascularly).
In 2021, the company showed how two humans implanted with stentrode™ were able to control external devices to perform functions such as email communications, text messaging, and online banking using brain thoughts. In the same year, the pioneering company was the first to receive a U.S. Food and Drug Administration investigational device exemption to conduct a clinical trial of a permanently implanted brain-computer interface.
“This first patient enrollment under an IDE for a permanently implanted BCI is a major milestone for the entire field, as we advance our solution for the 5 million people in the United States living with paralysis,” said Oxley in a company statement.
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