Elon Musk, a tech tycoon, has said that his business, Neuralink, has successfully implanted one of its wireless brain chips into a human being.
He said that “promising” brain activity had been observed following the treatment, and that the patient was “recovering well” in a post that he made on X, which was then known as Twitter.
To assist in the treatment of complicated neurological disorders, the company’s objective is to establish a connection between human brains and computers.
Several competing companies have already implanted gadgets that are comparable to these.
According to Professor Anne Vanhoestenberghe of King’s College London, “the first test in humans is a significant milestone for any company producing medical devices,” and she noted this.
“For the brain chip implant community, we must place this news in the context that whilst there are many companies working on exciting products, there are only a few other companies who have implanted their devices in humans, so Neuralink has joined a rather small group.”
On the other hand, she also emphasized that there should be a note of caution since “true success” could only be measured over the course of a lengthy period of time.
“We know Elon Musk is very adept at generating publicity for his company,” said the spokesperson.
One of the other organizations that has made comparable advancements in the area is the École Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne (EPFL), which is located in Switzerland. This institution has successfully allowed a guy who was paralyzed to walk only by thinking about it.
The implantation of electrical implants in his brain and spine allowed for the wireless transmission of ideas to his legs and feet, which allowed him to accomplish this goal.
In the month of May 2023, the details of the breakthrough were published in the magazine Nature, which is subject to peer review.
Neuralink has not disclosed any information regarding the technique that Mr. Musk claims has taken place, nor has there been any independent verification of the statements that Mr. Musk has made.
In an effort to get a response, BBC News has reached out to both Neuralink and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is the medical authority in the United States.
The testing of Neuralink
In the past, Neuralink has been under to criticism. In December 2022, Reuters published an article stating that the business had conducted experiments that led to the deaths of about 1,500 animals. These animals included pigs, lambs, and monkeys.
The director of the United States Department of Agriculture, which is responsible for investigating allegations about animal welfare, said in July 2023 that the department has not discovered any infractions of animal research standards at the company.
However, the agency is now conducting a separate inquiry into the matter.
In May of 2023, the Food and Drug Administration granted clearance to Mr. Musk’s business to operate the chip on human subjects.
In accordance with Neuralink, this provided the go-ahead for the beginning of the six-year research in which a robot is being used to surgically put 64 flexible threads, which are thinner than a human hair, on to a region of the brain that is responsible for “movement intention.”
The business claims that these threads make it possible for their experimental implant, which is powered by a battery that can be charged wirelessly, to record and send brain impulses wirelessly to an application that decodes how the individual wants to move.
According to Professor Tara Spires-Jones, who serves as the president of the British Neuroscience Association, “[It] has a great potential to help people with neurological disorders in the future and is an excellent example of how fundamental neuroscience research is being harnessed for medical advancements.”
“However, most of these interfaces require invasive neurosurgery and are still in experimental stages thus it will likely be many years before they are commonly available.”
In a different post on X, Mr. Musk said that the first product that Neuralink will release would be named Telepathy.
According to him, telepathy would make it possible to “give yourself control of your phone or computer, and through them almost any device, simply by thinking.”
“Initial users will be those who have lost the use of their limbs,” he said further.
The following statement was made in reference to the late British physicist Stephen Hawking, who suffered from motor neurone disease: “Imagine if Stephen Hawking could communicate faster than a speed typist or auctioneer.” “That is the objective.”
Despite the fact that Mr. Musk’s participation brings Neuralink to a higher level of visibility, some of his competitors have a track record that dates back twenty years. Blackrock Neurotech, a company situated in Utah, successfully implanted the first of several brain-computer interfaces in the year 2004.
Another organization that tries to assist individuals who are paralyzed is Precision Neuroscience, which was founded by a co-founder of Neuralink. Furthermore, the implant is akin to a very thin piece of tape that is placed on the surface of the brain. It is possible to implant the device via a “cranial micro-slit,” which the company claims is a far less complicated technique.
Devices that are already in existence have also produced results. Two distinct scientific investigations conducted in the United States in recent years employed implants to monitor the activity of the brain while a person attempted to talk. This information might then be decoded to assist the individual in communicating.