Back in 2019, the PIA blog looked at the emerging world of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs). Given their potential to take direct readings of what we are thinking, they clearly have important implications for privacy. Several countries are already looking to define neuro-rights that protect mental privacy and to pass laws enshrining them.
Last November, a small company called Synchron was granted regulatory approval by the FDA to conduct tests on human volunteers using its brain implant, Stentrode. It’s a neural implant that is inserted via the jugular vein into the blood vessels that sit on top of the brain. Once in position, small electrodes are deployed inside the vessel, close to the brain’s surface, that are able to send signals via an infrared transmitter surgically inserted into the chest. Machine-learning algorithms can be used to parse those signals, allowing paralyzed subjects to carry out simple tasks like moving a cursor on-screen.
In an interview with Futurism, Synchron’s CEO and founder, Thomas Oxley said: “I believe that the ultimate end game for this technology is to have bidirectional data flow to all regions of the brain, and the blood vessels are the only way to achieve that.” Oxley explained the main focus for Synchron’s work, and possible future developments:
Our flagship approach in paralysis deals with the problem of not being able to move. If a patient can’t move, it means they can’t control a digital world. We convert the attempted movements out of the brain to a platform that gives