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No brain surgery required: Australian 'Stentrode' miles ahead of Neuralink, expert claims

Synchrons patient controlling his computer just by thoughts

Despite there being generally a lot of hype around Elon Musk’s Neuralink, the neurotechnology company isn’t the only one developing innovative technologies in the field of brain-computer interfaces (BCI). Even Neuralink itself admits it is building on decades of previous research.

There are indeed many more companies and institutions trying to understand the human brain and develop procedures and products that allow patients suffering from diseases and severe injuries to improve their remaining lifetime.

As The Guardian highlighted, one of neurological research hotspots is Australia where a few promising BCI-focused projects reside. One of these projects is a Melbourne company called Synchron, developing a brain-computer interface that allows patients to control their computers.

Synchron’s solution dubbed Stentrode has one big advantage over Neuralink: it can be put inside of patient’s skull without the need for open brain surgery.

The Stentrode looks like a tiny mesh, essentially a stent, that is inserted in the brain through the blood vessels using a catheter. The mesh contains electrodes that can pick up signals from the brain which can be then interpreted as commands, for example, mouse clicks.

Thanks to Stentrode, even patients with severe paralysis can resume daily tasks, including texting, emailing, shopping, and banking online.

Dr. Christina Maher at Sydney University’s Brain and Mind Centre even claims, as quoted by Guardian Australia, that Synchron is miles ahead of Neuralink, with the Australian solution being more sophisticated and safer because it does not require open brain surgery. Maher also points to more than 25 scientific articles published by Synchron:

“With Neuralink, we don’t know much about it.

“My understanding is that a big priority for them is to test the efficacy and safety of their surgical robots … so they’re a lot more about the robotic side of things, which makes sense from a commercial perspective.”

As we reported in late January, the first human patient finally got implanted with a brain chip from Neuralink and is doing well so far.

The same can be said about patients implanted with Stentrode. In recent years, Synchron presented one of its patients paralyzed as a result of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Graham Felstad, who could be seen on videos controlling his computer – browsing the internet and texting with his friends and family – only by his thoughts.

All in all, both Neuralink and Synchron, but also many other existing projects provide a promise for a better future for patients whose lives were stricken by severe diseases and injuries. It’s not important which company has a more famous CEO, more media coverage, or better marketing, but which projects will actually fulfill their mission to help those who are desperately waiting to see them succeed.

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