A collaboration between 39 scientists from multiple departments across the University of Melbourne has resulted in a device that may soon help paralyzed patients translate their brain’s electrical signals into instructions that will control various types of devices and prostheses. Patients will be selected from the Royal Melbourne and Austin Hospitals in Australia where the first human trials are expected to begin in late 2017.
The “bionic spine,” or stentrode as it has been named, is a matchstick-sized device that will be implanted in a blood vessel near the motor cortex of the brain through a superficial incision near the back of the neck. The stentrode will read the brains electrical impulses and transmit the data wirelessly through the patient’s skin. An exoskeleton, wheelchair, or other prosthetic device will receive the data, and with the help of sophisticated algorithms, translate what began as thought into actionable control of the assistive apparatus.