Neurologist undergoes brain surgery for research

Neurologist takes self-experimentation to the extreme by installing implants in his own brain for data collection – MIT Technology Review

Phil Kennedy, a neurologist dedicated to finding a “speech decoder”, electrodes placed on the brain that connect to a computer making it possible for paralyzed patients to communicate without talking, took a step that few people would take. When he lost funding from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to continue his research, he had to look to alternative solutions in order to continue studying what he believed could give a “voice” back to those who are unable to talk.

Without funding from the FDA, Kennedy had few options left. He was making progress, but was not able to provide the proper safety data which left him without funding or credit. However, Kennedy refused to give up. After contemplating the risks and spending years mulling over the decision, he decided to “walk the walk”. Kennedy, the now 67 year-old neurologist decided to go to Belize, Central America to undergo the treatment himself.

After suffering mild complications, the surgery went well. Kennedy was able to take data and continue his research for almost one month, until he was forced to have the electrodes taken out. Having used a different electrode than he had used in the past (in order to make the procedure more simple), the brain was not able to heal fully.

In the MIT Technology Review article, Kennedy says “I had a few bumps and bruises after the surgery, but I did get four weeks of good data. I will be working on these data for a long time”.