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Synchron installs computer chip in first U.S. patient

Illustration by Kate Walker

Synchron installs computer chip in first U.S. patient


The Future. Brain-interface company Synchron is the first to gain FDA approval for human trials, and it’s wasted no time in implanting its device in an ALS patient in New York. Because the required surgery is much less invasive than that of rival Neuralink, Synchron may be on the road to providing the preeminent tech solution to help people with ALS and Parkinson’s translate their thoughts into digital commands.

I am motherboard
Americans just took one step closer to integrating with computers.

  • Synchron reported that it implanted its first brain-computer device in an American ALS patient on July 6 at Mount Sinai West medical center in New York.
  • The 1.5-inch device was inserted via a catheter through the person’s jugular vein so that it could enter a blood vessel in the brain.
  • The purpose of the chip is to give the patient the ability to use their thoughts to send emails and texts.

Synchron has already implanted its device in four patients in its home country of Australia, who are already successfully using it to send messages via WhatsApp and even do some online shopping.

The weaker link
It’s impossible to talk about Synchron without bringing up Elon Musk’s Neuralink, which has an almost identical ambition to help patients with ALS or Parkinson’s (although that device needs to be surgically inserted directly into a person’s skull).

Neuralink still hasn’t received FDA approval to start human trials, even though it’s famous (and famously busy) CEO has been saying they’ve been on the cusp of gaining that approval since 2020. The latest update was that the company inserted its chip into a monkey, using it to play a video game with its mind.

In an absolute slap to Neuralink, former Neuralink president Max Hodak invested in Synchron after leaving the company he co-founded. Ouch.

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