A recent IEEE SPECTRUM article discussed a new method for helping people with neuromuscular disorders regain some independence. It involves a stent-like electrode, dubbed a “stentrode,” being implanted in the brain, which allows the user to control a computer with thought. The breakthrough makes real-world use of brain-computer interfaces feasible.
The stentrode is inserted in a catheter and installed in the jugular vein in the neck, offering an option that’s less intrusive than traditional electrodes. The catheter “snakes” up through blood vessels to reach the cortex of the brain where it releases the stentrode, which unfolds into a tube-like scaffold that fits them against the walls of a blood vessel in the brain. The stentrode is connected to a device that is surgically implanted in the chest and provides power and data transmission. Another external device receives the signals from the brain and uses machine learning algorithms to convert them into computer commands.