Elon Musk revealed Sunday that the first human patient has received a brain implant from his startup Neuralink Corp., the company that aims to one day let humans control computers with their minds.
Neuralink is building a brain implant called the Link, which consists of a tiny chip and thousands of microscopic threads that can record and stimulate neural activity.
The Link is designed to help patients with severe paralysis, such as those suffering from ALS, spinal cord injury, or stroke, to regain their ability to communicate and interact with the world by using only their thoughts.
It is implanted in the brain by a surgical robot that can precisely insert the threads into specific regions of the cortex, the outer layer of the brain that is responsible for higher cognitive functions. The implant is wireless and invisible, and can connect to a smartphone app that decodes the neural signals and translates them into commands for external devices, such as computers, keyboards, mice, or even prosthetic limbs.
The first human recipient of the Link is a 32-year-old man who was paralyzed from the neck down after a car accident. He underwent the surgery at a hospital in San Francisco, where he was monitored by a team of Neuralink engineers and neurosurgeons.
According to Musk, the initial results show promising neuron spike detection, meaning that the implant can successfully record the electrical impulses that neurons produce when they communicate with each other.
Musk said the patient is recovering well and will soon begin the process of calibrating and testing the implant. The goal is to enable him to control a computer cursor and type with his mind, as well as to explore other applications that could improve his quality of life.
Musk also said that Neuralink plans to enroll more patients in the coming months, as part of its Prime study, a clinical trial that has received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the Link.
Neuralink is not the only company that is developing brain-computer interfaces, a field that has been growing rapidly in recent years. Several other startups, such as Kernel, Paradromics, and Synchron, are also working on similar technologies, as well as academic institutions, such as the University of Pittsburgh, Brown University, and the University of California, San Francisco.
However, Neuralink is widely regarded as a leader in the sector, thanks to its ambitious vision, cutting-edge engineering, and generous funding from Musk.
Musk founded Neuralink in 2016 to create a symbiosis between humans and artificial intelligence, a technology that he believes poses an existential threat to humanity if left unchecked. By enhancing the human brain with a digital layer, Musk hopes to enable humans to keep up with the rapid advancement of AI, as well as to unlock new abilities and experiences that are currently beyond our reach.
Neuralink’s technology is still in its early stages, and there are many challenges among them the implant’s long-term safety and durability, the ethical and social implications of altering the human brain, and the regulatory hurdles that the company will face are some of the issues that Neuralink will have to address in the future.