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This podcast's purpose is to bring together the field of neuroprosthetics/brain machine interfaces/brain implants in an understandable conversation about the current topics and breakthroughs.

We hope to replace needing to read scientific papers on new research in an easy to digest way.

People can share thoughts or ideas to facilitate 'idea sex' to make the field of brain implants a smaller and more personal space.

Apr 27, 2020

Dr. Phil Kennedy is a neurologist who has implanted patients with a neural recording device that can detect firing patterns attributed to certain words.  This device can help locked-in patients communicate with others by detecting these firing patterns and outputting words on a computer. He has also had himself implanted with this same device. In this episode, Dr. Kennedy discusses how the device works, and his experience being implanted with his own device.

Top three takeaways:

  1. Silent speech works by recording neural firing patterns that occur when a patient thinks about a word many times. Once these patterns are stored, the patient can communicate this word by thinking about it and outputting it onto a computer.
  2. Speech makes you more human; speech allows you to contact and connect with people. It is therefore important that implant centers are available worldwide so that locked-in patients everywhere have access to this technology to be able to communicate.
  3. Neurosurgery is not dangerous if the surgeon knows what he’s doing. We think of the brain as more precious, but brain surgery is not much more dangerous than cosmetic surgery.

[0:00] Ladan introduces the episode and the guest, Phil Kennedy, who explains how he decided to be implanted

[3:45] Kennedy explains the procedure he underwent in Belize and how and where the electrodes were implanted

[6:00] Kennedy explains how since the incision wouldn’t fully close, the electronics eventually had to be removed

[9:20] In neural recording, slow-firing units should not be ignored, as they may contribute substantially to the accuracy of the signal

[11:45] Silent speech can be obtained by giving a patient a word to think about several times and recording the firing patterns that happen

[15:00] Obtaining more firing units can be used to distinguish the firing patterns brought on by similar sounding words

[19:00] More units are not entirely necessary for a prosthetic; rather, conditioning the units already obtained may be more effective

[21:30] Without resolution in the recorded signal, true signal from each unique firing patterns is difficult to obtain. Garbage in, garbage out.

[24:00] Kennedy explains how he has the idea of opening up implant centers around the world to help more locked-in patients communicate

[27:20] Neurosurgery is not dangerous if the surgeon knows what he’s doing

[30:15] Kennedy explains why the signals obtained through electrodes last over time; features of the electrode prevent scarring at the site of implantation and collect accurate signals over time

[33:45] You don’t need a high channel count for a prosthetic; you need stable signals over time that can be used as often as needed

[37:00] Ladan gives an outro for the episode and discusses a book and documentary coming out called Unlocking Eric, which documents one of Dr. Kennedy’s patients