The brain computer interface (BCI) may not be the last frontier, but it will do for now until the real thing comes along. We’ve written about Stanford’s BCI that allows a man to write on a computer by imagining letters. Last November we covered Blackrock Neurotech’s plans to commercialize the Stanford BCI platform. In 2019 we wrote about Synchron’s Stentrode, a neural interface implanted in the jugular vein. Synchron recently announced an ALS patient’s success using the Stentrode with Twitter to communicate and control a variety of computer applications.

Philip O’Keefe, a 62-year old man with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), was the first to use a BCI to send a message via social media, according to Synchron. His initial message, “Hello World,” will appear in science history books as equivalent to Neil Armstrong’s “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” statement when he took the first human steps on the moon in 1969.

Using the Synchron CEO Thomas Oxley’s Twitter account, O’Keefe later messaged, “The system is astonishing, it’s like learning to ride a bike – it take 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.”

The Stentrode employs motor neuroprosthesis (MNP) technology. Originally designed for patients with paralysis, the MNP device is implanted in the jugular vein. The endovascular implant is much less invasive than open brain surgery or drilling into the skull to place an implant. Patients communicate wirelessly via the MNP.

The Stentrode’s potential to enable engagement and communication with ALS patients is terrifically exciting. We’re looking forward to learning more about Synchron’s BCI as the company proceeds to clinical trials. Synchron’s Oxley states the first in-human study will take place this year.