February 11, 2016
It is official – scientists have now tested and confirmed the world’s first nominally-invasive brain interface machine, designed in an effort to control the exoskeleton with the very power of thought.
This brain machine interface involves a stent-based stentrode (or electrode), which is rooted in a blood vessel within the brain, that records the different types of neural activity that has previously been shown through clinical trials to move limbs by way of the exoskeleton. The device itself, about the size of a paper clip, is scheduled to be implanted in the first human being in a trial to take place at The Royal Melbourne Hospital in 2017. The participants of the trial are to be selected from the Austin health Victorian Spinal Cord Unit.
The resulting recordings of this new brain device are proving that it is possible to record high-quality signals that are emitted from the human brain’s motor cortex – that is without need of open brain surgery. So, what does this mean for those individuals suffering with paralysis? Dr. Thomas Oxley, the principal author and Neurologist at The Royal Melbourne Hospital and Research Fellow at the Florey Institute of Neurosciences and Mental Health and the University of Melbourne, claims that this new device – the stentrode is revolutionary.
The development of this stentrode brought together leaders of medical research from The Royal Melbourne Hospital, a total of 39 academic scientists from 16 different departments to be exact. This device matters because it is the world’s first minimally invasive apparatus to be implanted within a blood vessel in the brain by way of an unpretentious one day procedure, which ultimately negates the need for ultra-high-risk brain surgery.
Dr. Oxley said, “Our vision, through this device, is to return function and mobility to patients with complete paralysis by recording brain activity and converting the acquired signals into electrical commands, which in turn would lead to movement of the limbs through a mobility assist device like an exoskeleton. In essence, this is a bionic spinal cord.”
Professor Terry O’Brien, Head of Medicine at Departments of Medicine and Neurology, The Royal Melbourne Hospital and University of Melbourne, too, has much positive feedback to share with regards to this new development. He says, “To be able to create a device that can record brainwave activity over long periods of time, without damaging the brain is an amazing development in modern medicine.” He goes on to say, “It can also be potentially used in people with a range of diseases aside from spinal cord injury, including epilepsy, Parkinson’s and other neurological disorders.”
1 in 50 people are affected by stroke and spinal cord injuries – the leading cause of disability. A development of this magnitude has the potential to change the lives of so many human beings all over the world. This revelation could be groundbreaking, as this simple device might actually give disabled individuals suffering from paralysis the chance to stand on their own two feet again – it is truly remarkable.
University of Melbourne. (2016, February 8). “New device to get people with paralysis back on their feet: Scientists have tested the world's first minimally-invasive brain-machine interface, designed to control an exoskeleton with the power of thought.” ScienceDaily (website). Retrieved February 9, 2016 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160208124241.htm
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