Elon Musk’s company Neuralink has placed its brain implant in a human brain for the first time in history. He also revealed the new product name of the startup’s brain chip. The startup’s first product is called ‘Telepathy’. The patient who received a Neuralink implant last Sunday is “recovering well”, Elon Musk says in a post on X (formerly Twitter).
Initial results also detected promising neuron spikes or nerve impulses. One of the company’s goals is to connect human brains to computers and it says it wants to help tackle complex neurological conditions.
Neuralink began recruiting patients for its first human clinical trials last fall. The company has received permission for this from the American regulator FDA. The Neuralink company is developing a brain implant with the primary aim of helping people with severe paralysis to communicate or operate devices using only brain signals.
Elon Musk’s company was given permission to test the chip on humans by the FDA in May, a critical milestone after earlier struggles to gain approval. This gave the green light for the start of the 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.
Typing by thinking:
The ultimate goal is to allow patients with serious diseases, such as ALS, to communicate by typing with their thoughts. “Imagine if Stephen Hawking could talk faster than an auctioneer,” Musk said. The first human clinical trial is one step in the long road to achieving that goal. Important to note is that it has not been announced how many people will participate in Neuralink’s trials. Previously it appeared that there were thousands of registrations.
Controversial animal testing:
Neuralink has come under fire several times in recent years for its experiments with animals. 155 operations were performed on a variety of animals, from monkeys to pigs. That also went wrong regularly. A large number of animals are said to have died prematurely during the tests. Neuralink confirmed in 2022 that several animals were euthanized.
While Elon Musk’s involvement certainly raises the profile of Neuralink, he faces rivals. Some of those rivals have a track record dating back two decades. For example, Utah-based Blackrock Neurotech implanted its first of many brain-computer interfaces in 2004. And Precision Neuroscience, formed by a Neuralink co-founder, also 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 much simpler procedure.