Neuralink, Elon Musk’s brain chip company, will begin human trials

FILE PHOTO. The Neuralink logo and photo of Elon Musk are seen in this illustration taken December 19, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration (DADO RUVIC/)

Neuralink, billionaire Elon Musk’s brain chip company, announced Tuesday that it has received approval from an independent review committee to begin the first trial. in humans of its brain implant for patients with paralysis.

The goal of the study is to test the safety and effectiveness of Neuralink’s wireless, implantable brain-computer interface, which will allow people with paralysis to control external devices with their thoughts.

According to Neuralink, patients with paralysis due to cervical spinal cord injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis can participate in the trial.

In May, the startup announced that it obtained authorization from US regulators to test brain implants in humans.

Neuralink reported this “important first step” through a statement on its Twitter account, in which it celebrated the decision of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA for its acronym in English) about this technology with which they hope that people can communicate with computers.

What is the Neuralink chip and how would it work?

The company’s scientists are developing devices that are implanted in the brain to connect it with a computer. The objective is to improve human capabilities and treat neurological diseases. Chip interfaces for people with disabilities are an application of this technology that seeks to restore or enhance sensory or motor functions that have been lost or damaged by some injury or illness. For example, a person with paralysis could control a robotic arm with your mind using this chip.

This is how the company itself explains it: “Our brain-computer interface is fully implantable, cosmetically invisible and designed to allow you control a computer or mobile device wherever I go”. Additionally, he notes, “the threads of our implant are so fine that they cannot be inserted by the human hand. “Our surgical robot has been designed to reliably and efficiently insert these threads exactly where they need to be.”

Neuralink, August 28, 2020
Neuralink, August 28, 2020

The objectives of the Neuralink chip are the following, as reported by the company itself:

– Develop a high bandwidth brain-computer interface that allows communication and Control external devices with your mind.

– Study and treat neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, he Parkinson’sthe epilepsy, the paralysis wave depression.

– Merging human intelligence with artificial intelligence to improve cognitive abilities and avoid being surpassed by AI.

The chip called N1 is 8 millimeters in diameter and features wires that compare in size to neurons in the brain, which is the equivalent of the diameter of a hair divided by 10. These wires house electrodes and insulation. The chip will be implanted in the brain without touching any veins or arteries, thanks to the intricate design of the robot.

The objective, the company explained, is “to restore independence and improve lives, we have created a BCI experience (total experience) that allows computer control fast and reliable and prioritizes ease of use.” The ability to control computers, smartphones and various other devices without touching them”.

The Neuralink chip works by capturing the electrical signals that are produced in the brain when a person thinks or does something. It is connected with very fine wires that have electrodes that are inserted into different areas of the brain depending on what you want to measure or stimulate. The chip communicates with a computer through a device wireless which is placed behind the ear. Thus, information can be sent and received between the brain and the computer, allowing external devices to be controlled or brain functioning to be modified.

The initial phase of the project would focus on helping the healthcare industry. The system will be able to help paraplegic people with simple tasks such as using a telephone or controlling a computer. It will also help in the research of brain electrical signals and the development of drugs for various medical conditions. Another possibility in the future, according to its developers, will be to restore speech, movement and even memory. Eventually, humans will even be able to communicate with each other without speaking, which would involve reading other people’s minds.

The procedure will require a 2 millimeter incision that will be dilated to 8 millimeters. The exposed region of the skull will be covered with the chipset module when the surgery is completed. As Musk had said, the installation operation can take up to two hours and the user can be under partial anesthesia throughout the surgery.

(With information from Reuters)