A BRAIN implant the size of a paperclip will be inserted into five severely paralysed Australians as part of a ground-breaking trial to help them communicate again.
The futuristic technology known as Stentrode does not require open brain surgery and will be placed inside a blood vessel of the brain’s motor cortex, which controls movement.
Five patients with a range of conditions – such as stroke, spinal cord injury, muscular dystrophy and motor neuron disease – will take part in the first human trial at The Royal Melbourne and Bethlehem hospitals.
The trial’s principal investigator, Professor Peter Mitchell, says the technology will benefit people who can’t speak, are locked in their bodies and have almost no physical function.
“If this trial can successfully provide a brain-to-computer interface, it would allow people with these kinds of injuries and diseases to communicate,” he said.
Professor Mitchell says the device could give patients the ability to control a mouse or keyboard.
“This would give people back a small amount of independence,” he said.
Stentrode creator, Associate Professor Thomas Oxley, said research into how brain signals are recorded and used to control technology such as computers or text generation could help people with neurological conditions that result in paralysis.
“This research may help us find safer and more effective ways to introduce electrical sensors to patients,” he said.
“This could help the development of more user-friendly biotechnology for patients with neurological conditions.”
The Stentrode trial will begin in mid 2019 and is a collaboration between The Royal Melbourne Hospital, the University of Melbourne and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health.