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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.