Paralyzed Man Tweets Using Implanted Brain Chip, Makes History

A paralyzed man in Australia has become the first person to tweet a message via direct thought thanks to a tiny brain implant the size of a paperclip.

A paralyzed man in Australia has become the first person to tweet a message via direct thought thanks to a tiny brain implant the size of a paperclip.

Philip O'Keefe Tweets Using His Mind helloworldbci

He tweeted; “no need for keystrokes or voices. I created this tweet just by thinking it. #helloworldbci”.

An incredibly exciting development for everyone who has their mobility affected due to any condition. This 62-year-old Australian man was paralyzed following his diagnosis with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). He 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 (BCI) on December 23.

O'Keefe, who had been losing his independence to the progressing paralysis following his condition, received the implant in April 2020 and had been using it to connect with his family as well as business colleagues through email exchanges. The implanting procedure of the brain chip was not an easy task. It took four hours to insert into the patient's brain. After that, he could now interpret messages on a computer.

Mr. O'Keefe said: “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. Now, I just think about where on the computer I want to click, and I can email, bank, shop, and now message the world via Twitter.” He said in a press conference that he related using the interface to learning a bike, which takes a fair bit of practice but becomes quite natural once you get used to it.

He just needs to think about where he wants to click on the computer and the interface now allows him to email, use online banking as well as shopping services. His recent achievement was sharing his thoughts via social media channel Twitter, using Synchron CEO, Thomas Oxley's handle to connect with the world.

In a statement, Oxley, the CEO of Synchron said that the tweet was an important moment for the field of BCI and highlighted the connection, hope, and freedom, the technology offered to people whose functional independence had been taken away by diseases like paralysis. The company is planning its first-in-human study in the U.S. next year, Oxley added.

The interface, created by California-based Synchron - a neurovascular bioelectronics medicine company - allows patients to carry out tasks on a computer just by using their minds. Brain-computer interfaces (BCI) are the next big thing in technology. While some people like Elon Musk want to use it to enhance human experiences as early as next year, others such as Synchron, whose interface helped Australian Philip O'Keefe send out his first tweet, want to develop it as a prosthesis for paralysis and treat other neurological diseases such as Parkinson's disease in the future, the company said in a press release.

Synchron's BCI works through its brain implant called Stentrode that does not require any brain surgery to be installed. Instead, the company leverages the intentional techniques that are commonly used to treat stroke to implant the Stentrode via the jugular vein, the press release said.

The process works by translating the brain signals into texts through thought processing. With that, the paralyzed man was able to write 16 words every minute which the experts considered as a huge feat for someone who cannot fully move a part of his body.

Before the test became successful for humans, the scientists first experimented with it with monkeys. In 2017, a group of researchers saw that it was effective for the said animals. With this innovation the world has taken a big leap forward towards technological advancement and more exciting developments can be expected in the future as people with differently-abled lifestyles will have found a way to communicate their genius.

by Talha Shaikhani