The wireless brain chip from entrepreneur Elon Musk’s Neuralink has been implanted in a human for the first time, a year after the test was given the all-clear.
Musk declared that the patient “is recovering well” after receiving the implant on Sunday. The technology is intended to be used for multiple reasons, such as facilitating a brain-computer interface and helping people regain their motor function. Musk’s claims were not independently verified, and Neuralink did not provide many details.
Although ethical concerns regarding the device and its testing have been raised, Musk has hailed Neuralink as the technology and medical breakthrough of the future.
What you should know about Neuralink’s human testing is provided here.
What does Neuralink do and what is it?
Musk created the brain-chip company Neuralink in 2016.
A coin-sized device is surgically inserted into the skull, and ultra-thin wires are used to connect it to the brain to create a brain-computer interface (BCI).
The disk would record brain activity and transfer it over a common Bluetooth link to a device, such a smartphone.
According to Musk, the first product, named Telepathy, will let users operate computers or phones “just by thinking.”
According to the business, implanting the chip in the area of the brain that regulates motor function would also help people recover from neurological disorders.
Musk stated that people who are limb-loss victims will be the first users.
What is the Neuralink human trial phase?
The phase of human testing will help improve the device while gathering data on safety and efficacy.
On Monday, Musk stated on X that the “initial results show promising neuron spike detection.” This indicates that signals, both chemical and electrical, are being sent throughout the body by neurons. Engaging in such activities enables us to perform our daily tasks, such as eating and talking.
Neuralink was initially seeking study volunteers in September, namely those with conditions impacting the spinal cord, a vital component of the nervous system.
Amid federal investigations into the safety of its animal experiments, the US Food and Drug Administration allowed human trials in May 2023.
What kind of testing has Neuralink done before?
Neuralink used pigs and monkeys to test its technology.
Through their Neuralink implants, the company displayed multiple monkeys “playing” simple video games or navigating a cursor across a screen.
There have been reports of problems with the implants in monkeys, including paralysis, convulsions, and brain swelling, despite Neuralink’s claim that no monkeys have died as a result of them.
Are there any other businesses working on these projects?
According to an online database of ongoing clinical trials in the US, there are about forty brain-computer interface trials underway.
In July 2022, a US patient received an implant from Synchron, an Australian business. The placement of Synchron’s implant does not necessitate any skull cuts.
While other studies focus on medical needs, Musk’s business aims to provide consumers power over their cellphones and other devices.
What ethical concerns around Neuralink?
Concerns have been raised by experts over the use of Neuralink’s brain chip in animal experiments as well as potential risks from brain surgery, such as seizures or brain haemorrhage.
They continue by saying that Musk’s idea of implants raises concerns regarding surveillance and privacy. There is little information on users’ ability to maintain control over their neural activity and personal data.
According to documents from the federal agency that Reuters examined, Neuralink was penalised earlier this year by the US Department of Transportation for neglecting to register as a carrier of hazardous material, which is implants made from monkey brains.
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