A specialized brain implant that transforms thoughts into computer signals (and vice versa) could soon be a restorative therapy for those affected by paralysis, deafness, blindness, mental illness, and other types of brain disorders. At the heart of this development is a new, specialized brain-computer-interface (BCI) technology that is being developed by Paradromics Inc. Their device platform offers more than an order of magnitude data rate increase over the existing state-of-the-art human brain recording.
“It isn’t just an improved technology – it’s also a fundamentally different way of looking at brain health. Once you realize that the brain is a data organ, many classically challenging health conditions can be reframed from a data perspective. Paralysis is a loss of control signals to the body. Blindness is a lack of visual data in the brain. Eventually, even certain types of mental illness will be viewed and treated through the lens of neural activity,” says Paradromics CEO, Matt Angle.
Paradromics’ high data-rate and fully implantable cortical modules are comprised of micro-electrode arrays, bonded to custom processing chips, that translate between bioelectric and digital signals. Each microwire is significantly smaller than a human hair and penetrates 1.5mm into the surface of the brain (cortex) where signal fidelity is highest. The complete Paradromics system includes 4 modules which communicate with a wireless module that transmits the data through the skin to a computer where the neural activity is converted into an actionable control signal.
“The idea behind this technology is you can access an area of the brain, read and understand what it’s doing, and then translate that into something actionable,” Angle says.
Paradromics’ first BCI product will allow persons with severe motor and speech limitations to communicate through the use of a personal computer. It will interface with the motor cortex of these patients, an area that is not currently used due to their degree of paralysis.
Paradromics surprised the research community one year ago with its demonstration (in animals) of its 65,000-channel recording interface – currently the highest data rate system reported. Concurrently under development is a streamlined 1,600-channel interface for human use. Critical to this design is the selection of biocompatible, durable materials, and the use of state-of-the-art packaging and connectors to ensure a safe, reliable device.
“We are proud to have been selected by Paradromics to support their development, helping to turn their groundbreaking device into a commercial reality,” says Velentium CEO Dan Purvis. “Paradromics’ core technology is stunning, and together we can accelerate its development in order to get to market and improve patients’ lives as soon as possible.”
After rigorous safety testing and work with regulators, the team plans to gain first approval for use in patients with severe combined motor and speech deficits (such as quadriplegia and ALS).
“There’s currently a backlog of energy, know-how, and brain power from the semiconductor, medical device, and neuroscience fields, just waiting to be brought to bear on brain health. The first commercially successful BCI-based therapy will open a floodgate of innovation,” Angle concludes.