“I made this just by thinking about it,”: The first paralysed person to use his MIND to send a message via Twitter is 62-year-old Paralysed Man

  • Philip O’Keefe is 62 years old and from Australia. His amyotrophic lateral sclerosis has made it impossible for him to use his upper limbs.
  • He tweeted: “No need to keystrokes nor voices. This tweet was created by me just thinking about it. #helloworldbci
  • On December 23, he successfully converted his direct thoughts to text by using the Stentrode braincomputer interface (BCI).

A tiny brain implant that is the same size as a paperclip has enabled a paralysed Australian man to send a direct message to his followers via Twitter.

Philip O’Keefe, 62, who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) which has left him unable to move his upper limbs, tweeted: ‘No need for keystrokes or voices. It was just a thought that I came up with this tweet. #helloworldbci

In 2015, he was first diagnosed with ALS. On December 23, he successfully transformed his direct thinking into text by using the Stentrode braincomputer interfacing (BCI). 

Synchron, a California-based neurovascular bioelectronics company that specializes in medicine and neuroscience, designed the interface. It allows patients to use their minds to perform tasks on a computer.    

A paralysed man in Australia has become the first person to tweet a message (above) via 'direct thought' thanks to a tiny brain implant the size of a paperclip. Philip O'Keefe, 62, suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) which has left him unable to move his upper limbs. To share the news, he took over the Twitter handle of Synchron CEO, Thomas Oxley, using the hashtag #HelloWorldBCI - where BCI stands for brain computer interface

A tiny brain implant that is the same size as a paperclip has enabled a paralysed Australian man to send a tweet (above), via direct thought. Philip O’Keefe is 62 and has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. He can’t move his upper limbs due to the condition. In order to spread the word, O’Keefe took control of the Synchron CEO’s Twitter account, Thomas Oxley. He also used #HelloWorldBCI, where BCI stands as brain computer interface.

Mr O'Keefe (above) was diagnosed with ALS, a form of Motor Neurone Disease, in 2015, and successfully turned his direct thought to text using the Stentrode brain computer interface - made by California-based Synchron - on December 23

In 2015 Mr O’Keefe, a motor neurone disease, was diagnosed. On December 23, 2015, he successfully transformed his direct thoughts into text with the Stentrode braincomputer interface – California-based Synchron – which he used to turn his thoughts into text.

'When I first heard about this technology, I knew how much independence it could give back to me. The system is astonishing, it's like learning to ride a bike - it takes practice, but once you're rolling, it becomes natural,' said Mr O'Keefe

“When I heard of this technology for the first time, I was amazed at how much freedom it would give me.” It’s amazing, like learning how to ride a bicycle – you need practice but then it’s easy.

Brain signals are sent through a telemetry unit to a small computer taped to the patient's chest, which interprets what actions the individual wants to perform on the nearby PC, such as texting, emailing and shopping online

The brain signals travel through a transmitter to a tiny computer attached to the patient’s chest. This interprets the actions of the individual on the PC nearby, including texting, emailing or shopping online.

According to Mr O’Keefe, “When I heard of this technology for the first time, I realized how much freedom it could offer me.” 

The system is so amazing that it feels like riding a bike. Once you start rolling it will become natural.

“Now, all I need to do is think about what I’d like to do on the computer. Then I’ll be able email, bank, shop, message and send out tweets.

He used the hashtag #HelloWorldBCI to share his news and took the handle of Synchron CEO Thomas Oxley’s Twitter account. 

His goal was to inspire others and share the experience of his regaining independence.

His closing remarks stated that he hoped to “pave the way” for others to use Twitter to share their thoughts.

Following progressive paralysis due to ALS that left him unable work and other activities, he was fitted with a brain computer interface. 

The Synchron team uses blood vessels as a natural highway to the brain, which are laced with sensors that record activity. The Stentrode device implanted in the brain measures 40mm in length

As a highway to the brain for Synchron, blood vessels are used by the team. They have sensors that track activity. It measures approximately 40mm long when the Stentrode implant is in place in the brain.

He has since been using the technology to reconnect with his family and business colleagues – continuing email exchanges and staying actively involved in his consultancy and other business projects.

According to Mr Oxley, “These funny holiday tweets represent a significant moment in the field implantable brain computer interfaces.” 

“They emphasize the connection, hope, and freedom that BCIs offer people such as Phil who lost so much of their functional independence due to paralysis.

“We look forwards to developing our brain-computer interface, Stentrode,” he said. 

The brain implant – Texting through the power of thought

Patients were able to click accurately at 92 percent, 93 percent, and 14 characters per minute using the Stentrode braincomputer interface. This was without having to lift a finger.

They are using blood vessels to connect the brain. These blood vessels have sensors that track activity.

These signals are sent to a telemetry device to an attached computer that interprets which actions the patient wants on the nearby PC.

The Stentrode device is small and flexible, allowing it to safely pass through curving blood vessels in the brain. Pictured are the sensors that are placed in the vessels

Stentrode is small and lightweight, which allows it to pass safely through the brain’s blood vessels. These are sensors placed inside the vessels.

The brain computer interface allows patients to carry out tasks on a computer just by using their mind. The images here show the brain chip (top) and sensors (bottom) that are implanted

Patients can use their brains to perform tasks on the computer by the brain computer interface. These images show both the sensors and brain chip that have been implanted.

The successful human trials come at a time that many companies are working tirelessly to develop the first brain chip – specifically Elon Musk’s Neuralink, which has only demonstrated its device in a pig.

Stentrode is a small, flexible device measuring 40 mm in length that can pass safely through brain blood vessels.

According to the team, this procedure works in a similar way as a pacemaker but does not involve open brain surgery.

After the implant of the chip, the sensors are inserted through the vessels into an internal unit for telemetry. This connects with a wireless transmitter that is taped to the chest.

Sensors collect brain activity, and these are transmitted to the transmitter. The transmitter interprets the data into computer tasks.

It also features an eye-tracker that allows you to move the cursor across the screen.