Neuralink Implant A Brain Chip In A Human

A year after being cleared fo  the test, Elon Musk’s startup company Neuralink has implanted its wireless brain chip in a human for the first time. In a message on Twitter X, he announced that brain activity had been detected after the procedure and the patient was recovering well.

The device is meant to have several applications, from restoring motor functionality within people to enabling a brain-computer interface.

There was no independent verification of Musk’s claims and Neuralink has not given many details, however, Neuralink says its initial aim is to connect human brains to computers and help to improve complex neurological conditions. "Initial results show promising neuron spike detection," Musk said in his post on Twitter X.

Spikes are activity by neurons, which the National Institute of Health describes as cells that use electrical and chemical signals to send information around the brain and to the body. That was achieved by putting electronic implants on his brain and spine which wirelessly communicate thoughts to his legs and feet. Details of the breakthrough were published in Nature in May 2023 and a number of rival companies have also implanted similar devices. Neuralink has not provided any information about the procedure he says has taken place.

Neuralink has been criticised in the past, as the company engaged in testing which resulted in the deaths of approximately 1,500 animals, including sheep, monkeys and pigs. In July 2023, the head of the US Department of Agriculture - which investigates animal welfare concerns - said it had not found any violations of animal research rules at the firm. A separate investigation by the agency is ongoing.

Musk's firm was allowed to test the chip on humans by the FDA in May 2023 giving regulatory approval to begin a six-year study during which a robot is being used to surgically place 64 flexible threads, thinner than a human hair, on to a part of the brain that controls "movement intention", according to Neuralink. The company says that these threads allow its experimental implant - powered by a battery that can be charged wirelessly - to record and transmit brain signals wirelessly to an app that decodes how the person intends to move. 

The technology has the  potential to help people with neurological disorders and provided an example of how fundamental neuroscience research is being harnessed for medical advances. Professor Tara Spires-Jones, President of the British Neuroscience Association commented "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 another message on X, Musk said that Neuralink’s first working application would be called Telepathy which, 
he said, would enable "control of your phone or computer, and through them almost any device, just by thinking...  Initial users will be those who have lost the use of their limbs"

Elon Musk's ownership and active participation has given Neuralink a higher profile than some of his rivals, some of whom ahe been active for years.

  • Blackrock Neurotech, implanted its first brain-computer interfaces in 2004.
  • Precision Neuroscience, formed by a Neuralink co-founder aims to help people with paralysis and its implant resembles a very thin piece of tape that sits on the surface of the brain and can be implanted via a "cranial micro-slit", which it says is a simpler procedure.

Existing devices have also generated results. In two separate recent US scientific studies, implants were used to monitor brain activity when a person tried to speak, which could then be decoded to help them communicate.

@elonmusk:    Nature:     Reuters:    Sky:      BBC:   AlJazeera:   Guardian:    Inage: -TharangaAdikari-

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