A Utah-based biotech company implanted brain chips in dozens in dozens of patients in an effort its owner claims will cure depression, blindness and paralysis.
The chip, known as NeuroPort Array, is manufactured by Blackrock Neurotech.
Blackrock’s device attaches 96 arrays, small needle-shaped brain chips, that decipher and stimulate electrical signals generated by someone’s thoughts.
Recipients of the NeuroPort Array chip are also able to control prosthetic limbs and wheelchairs, play video games and feel sensations.
The signals produced by the thoughts are decoded by machine learning software into digital commands used to control prosthetics and computer equipment.
The implant can be placed anywhere on the surface of the brain.
“Multiple devices can be placed on the same person’s brain,” Daily Mail reports. “After implantation, the chip detects electrical signals generated by the wearer’s thoughts.
“Machine learning software decodes these signals into digital commands such as cursor movements, which can be used to control prosthetics and computer equipment.”
The first chip was implanted in a human in 2004. Approximately fifty people have since been implanted with Blackrock’s brain device.
No other brain chip on the market utilizes similar brain-computer interfaces, explains Marcus Gerhardt, Blackrock’s co-founder.
“We are the only company with direct-brain BCI implants in humans,” Gerhardt said. “Our implantable arrays have enabled people to connect directly to computers, control robotic arms and wheelchairs, play video games, even regain sensation — with just their brain signals.”
Neuralink, a company founded by tech mogul Elon Musk, is also creating implantable brain chips, but the US Food and Drug Administration rejected Neuralink’s application in March. The agency listed dozens of “deficiencies” the company must address before human trials and questioned whether the device could be removed without damaging brain tissue.
Blackrock is now awaiting FDA approval for the devices to be used outside the lab.
“We are pursuing regulatory approval of the world’s first-ever BCI designed specifically for at-hom use: MoveAgain,” Gerardt said. “This medical device aims to increase inpedendence and mobility, and ultimately, quality fo life, for people with paralysis.”
BCIs will become as widely used for paralyzed patients as pacemakers for people with heart issues, the Blackrock chief continued.
“Once home-use BCIs are available, they’ll help people build new lives that may have seemed impossible following their disability; we think we’ll see people return to work, establish greater independence, and engage with the world in powerful new ways,” he said. “Our long-term vision is that our implants will become as readily available to people with paralysis as pacemakers are for people with heart issues.”
While the device purportedly treats memory loss, PTSD and mental illnesses like anxiety and depression, the device will usually require removal after five years as the arrays, microneedles decay over time. In as little as two years, the signal quality degrades. Recipients of the brain implant would be required to undergo another surgery to extract the device and replace it.
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