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25.09.2020 | Insight

HCPs look to neurotech to solve patient treatment challenges

By Adam Doggett

Neurotech is the fast growing field at the intersection of neuroscience and technology. The early ripples of its vast array of potential benefits in commercial and healthcare settings have already begun to emerge. From sleep EEG biosensors to BCI robotic arms and brain controlled helicopters, neurotech is beginning to make its presence felt across the board.

Given the immense scope of possibilities, it is no surprise that tech giants such as Facebook and Google are investing heavily in neurotech R&D. On August 29th, Elon Musk, known for his ambitious and pioneering technology projects, presented an update on startup Neuralink’s computer chip which can be inserted into the brain to measure neural activity of its host.

Such exploits, it has been proposed, will eventually allow people to control computers with their minds, cure neurological disorders and achieve ‘superhuman cognition’, as the entrepreneur put it. Beyond media reports and neuroscience and technology aficionados, healthcare professionals (HCPs) discussed Musk’s announcement online. CREATION.co specializes in understanding HCP online interactions, so we tracked the online response to the Neuralink showcase to see if HCPs are declaring healthcare breakthrough or damp squib.

The event gained a lot of attention globally, including 802 Twitter posts from more than 500 HCPs who were eager to share updates throughout the course of the event and the hours that followed.

Perhaps unsure what to think about news, many HCPs reported the events at face value, linked to the Neuralink site or to the YouTube livestream without offering further insight of their own.

However, others immediately saw the potential, looking beyond the initial capabilities of the chip to see long term benefits for the future of healthcare. HCPs joined in the conversation to share their thoughts on how the Neuralink device could solve health challenges and transform the way neurological conditions are treated. Psychologists and psychiatrists showed an interest in how the device could be used to support patients with mental health conditions while surgeons considered the implant in the context of spinal injuries and paralysis.

As interest and excitement around the ‘fascinating’ innovation brewed, some HCPs were quick to pour cold water on the idea, warning people not to get caught up in the brain device hype. Sceptics conceded that whilst the engineering is impressive, the science has a long way to go before Neuralink’s dreams become reality.

Shared by 2 HCPs

And some to view proceedings gave less attention to medical possibilities, instead joking about science fiction mind control becoming reality.

Shared by 10 HCPs

However, medical innovation such as brain implants may not be as far off as some think, for those that hailed the breakthrough as something from the future, others shared instances of medical neurotech that is already in existence, and in the case of the cochlear implant, is ready to bring tangible results to patients if the device was more widely accessible.

Shared by 2 HCPs

Shared by 6 HCPs

As Neuralink and other neurotechnologies develop, new and complex avenues will open up. However HCPs, with an immediate job to do, are interested in solving current real-world challenges and improving patient outcomes, our challenge in supporting the healthcare sector is to understand what HCPs need today.

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Meet the Author

Adam Doggett

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