Neuralink, a brain-chip startup founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, recently achieved a significant milestone by successfully implanting its revolutionary brain chip into a human patient. On January 29th, Musk announced that the first recipient of the brain implant was recovering well and that initial results showed promising signs of neuron spike detection. These spikes represent neuron activity, specialized cells in the brain that transmit information through electrical and chemical signals.
This groundbreaking achievement was made possible after obtaining authorization from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the previous year, allowing Neuralink to proceed with its first human trial. This regulatory approval marked a crucial step in Neuralink’s mission to assist people dealing with paralysis and various neurological conditions.
In September, Neuralink had already received authorization to begin recruiting participants for the human trial. The study involved the use of a robotic system to surgically implant a brain-computer interface (BCI) into a specific region of the brain responsible for controlling movement intentions. The ultimate goal of this endeavor is to empower individuals to control computer cursors or keyboards solely with their thoughts, a remarkable achievement made possible by the thin wires of the implant transmitting signals within the participants’ brains.
Elon Musk also revealed that the first product to emerge from Neuralink would be called “Telepathy,” further emphasizing the company’s commitment to advancing brain-computer communication. The ongoing PRIME study was designed to assess the safety of the wireless brain-computer interface and the surgical robot used in the implantation process. So far, Neuralink has not provided additional details in response to Reuters’ inquiries.
While Neuralink’s achievements are undoubtedly innovative, the company has faced scrutiny over its safety protocols. Earlier reports in the year revealed that Neuralink was fined for violating United States Department of Transportation (DOT) rules regarding the transport of hazardous materials. Additionally, concerns arose after veterinary records indicated issues with brain implants in monkeys, including cases of paralysis, seizures, and brain swelling. In response to these concerns, Elon Musk stated that no monkeys died from Neuralink implants and that the company chose “terminal” monkeys to minimize risks to healthy individuals.
Neuralink’s value was estimated at approximately $5 billion in the previous June, but by the end of November, four lawmakers requested the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to investigate whether Musk had provided accurate information to investors about the technology’s safety. Despite these challenges and controversies, Neuralink’s progress in the field of brain chip technology remains a significant development in the pursuit of enhancing human capabilities and addressing neurological conditions.