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Elon Musk unveils Neuralink’s human brain chip implant success

Written by Tue 30 Jan 2024

Image Credit: Reuters

Elon Musk said his startup, Neuralink, successfully implanted its first human patient with a brain chip.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Musk said the initial results show a ‘promising neuron spike detection’. Neurons are cells within the nervous system that transmit information to other cells, muscles, or glands. They play a crucial role in processing information through electrical and chemical signals.

Neuralink aims to empower those with neurological conditions to control a computer cursor or keyboard solely through their thoughts.

The BBC reported that Professor Anne Vanhoestenberghe of King’s College London said for any company producing medical devices, the first test in humans is a significant milestone.

“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,” added Vanhoestenberghe. 

Vanhoestenberghe added there needed to be caution as the true success of the chip implant can only be evaluated long-term.

In September, Neuralink announced approval for human trial recruitment. The study involves using a robot to surgically implant a brain-computer interface (BCI) in the brain region responsible for movement intention. 

The implant’s 64 ‘ultra-fine’ threads assist in transmitting signals to the subjects’ brains. These threads permit the implant to record brain signals to an app that decodes how the user would like to move.

On 29 January, Musk said in a post on X that the first Neuralink product is called Telepathy.

École Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, has joined the ranks of companies making strides in the field. They enabled a paralysed individual to walk using only their thoughts.

This was accomplished through electronic implants on the individual’s brain and spine, wirelessly communicating signals to their legs and feet. In May 2023, the breakthrough was published in the peer-reviewed journal, Nature.

Neuralink Faces Controversy

Neuralink faced controversy regarding its safety processes. Reuters reported the company was issued fines for violating US Department of Transportation (DOT) rules. The DOT said the investigators found the company had failed to register itself as a transporter of hazardous material.

Last June, Neuralink was valued at around £3.9 billion ($5 billion). In November, four lawmakers urged the US Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate whether Musk had misled investors regarding the safety of its technology. 

Veterinary records revealed issues with the implants in monkeys, including paralysis, seizures, and brain swelling. Elon Musk said no monkeys had died as a result of a Neuralink brain chip.

“First our early implants, to minimise risk to healthy monkeys, we chose terminal monkeys close to death already,” said Musk in a post on X.

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Written by Tue 30 Jan 2024

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