Brain Chip Allows Paralyzed Man to Post First-Ever Tweet Using Only His Thoughts

A man who suffers from ALS has made the first “direct-thought tweet” after having a computer chip implanted in his brain.

Philip O’Keefe, a 62-year-old man from Australia who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), has made the first “direct-thought tweet,” having composed and posted it using only his thoughts due to a brain computer interface developed by neurotech startup Synchron.

“No need for keystrokes or voices. I created this tweet just by thinking it,” stated the tweet, which was posted to the account of Synchron CEO Thomas Oxley. 

O’Keefe then posted seven tweets replying to questions from Twitter users. “My hope is that I’m paving the way for people to tweet through thoughts,” the final one stated.

The Stentrode device was first implanted in April 2020 after O’Keefe’s condition worsened, leaving him unable to engage in work-related or other independent activities. 

The device was inserted through the jugular vein to avoid invasive brain surgery. It has since allowed him to reconnect with friends, family and colleagues via email. He can also play simple computer-based games, such as Solitaire.

“When I first heard about this technology, I knew how much independence it could give back to me,” said O’Keefe, according to a press release from Synchron. “The system is astonishing, it’s like learning to ride a bike – it takes practice, but once you’re rolling, it becomes natural. Now, I just think about where on the computer I want to click, and I can email, bank, shop, and now message the world via Twitter.”

Once the device was placed, it took four hours for O’Keefe to be able to use it to input text on a computer. The Twitter takeover on Dec. 23, 2021 was an opportunity to promote the life-changing technology. 

“These fun holiday tweets are actually an important moment for the field of implantable brain computer interfaces,” said Oxley. “They highlight the connection, hope and freedom that BCIs give to people like Phil who have had so much of their functional independence taken away due to debilitating paralysis.”

Synchron is one of several neurotech startups making huge strides in BCI technologies, with Elon Musk’s Neuralink also planning to begin human trials in 2022. Musk claims that Neuralink devices will be able to do everything from restoring full-boy functionality to quadriplegics, to streaming music directly to the brain. 

Image source: India Times