Elon Musk’s company Neuralink has successfully implanted a wireless brain chip in a human for the first time. Initial results from this operation have reportedly shown promising neural impulses, and the patient is recovering without complications.
Elon Musk, the controversial billionaire, has long stated that the goal of his company is to merge human brains with computers. He also aims to combat complex neurological diseases. In May, Neuralink received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to test the chip on humans, marking a critical milestone after previous efforts to gain consent. This approval has greenlighted a six-year study in which a robot surgically places 64 flexible threads, thinner than a human hair, onto the brain area controlling “intention of movement.”
Neuralink claims its implant, powered by a wirelessly rechargeable battery, can record and transmit brain signals wirelessly to an app that decodes how a person intends to move.
Musk announced that this first Neuralink product will be named Telepathy. It is expected to eventually enable users to control phones or computers, and thereby almost any device, solely through thought. The initial users are expected to be those who have lost limb functionality.
Experts note that similar experiments have been conducted by other companies previously. For instance, Utah-based Blackrock Neurotech implanted its first of many brain-computer interfaces as early as 2004.
Precision Neuroscience, co-founded by a Neuralink co-founder, aims to aid people with paralysis. Its implant resembles a thin strip that sits on the brain’s surface and can be implanted through a “micro-slotted craniotomy,” a significantly simpler procedure.
Existing devices have also shown results. In two separate American scientific studies, implants were used to monitor brain activity as a person attempted to speak. This data could then be decoded to enable communication.
The advancements by Neuralink and other companies in this field mark a significant step towards integrating technology with human cognitive functions, potentially transforming how we interact with technology and addressing some of the challenges faced by people with neurological impairments. However, these developments also raise ethical and safety questions that will need careful consideration as the technology progresses.