Neuralink: Musk’s company aims to soon test brain implants in people

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Elon Musk, a tech tycoon, said his Neuralink business is shortly applying for approval to test its brain implant on humans. Musk claimed his team is in the process of requesting permission from American regulators to test the device during a “show and tell” event that was live-streamed Wednesday night. Though this schedule is far from definite, he stated that he believes the business should be able to implant the device in a human brain as part of a clinical study in around six months.

Many organisations, like Elon Musk’s Neuralink, are focusing on connecting brains to computers to cure brain illnesses, recover from brain injuries, and for other purposes. According to Rajesh Rao, co-director of the Center for Neurotechnology at the University of Washington, the discipline has existed since the 1960s. But the 1990s were when it took off. And in more recent times, there have been several developments, particularly in the field of communication brain-computer interfaces.

Rao, who viewed Musk’s presentation online, stated he doesn’t believe Neuralink has made any significant advances in the field of brain-computer interfaces. However, he added, “in terms of the real hardware in the devices, they are quite ahead.” With ultra-thin wires running directly into the brain, the Neuralink device, which is roughly the size of a huge coin, is intended to be implanted in the skull.

According to Musk, the first two uses people will be to restore vision and enable those who have limited or no muscle control in using digital gadgets quickly. He said that he also thinks brain impulses from a person with a broken neck might be connected to Neuralink devices in the spinal cord. We’re confident there are no physical barriers to enabling full body functionality, said Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX and the man who recently took over Twitter.

Other research teams have used implanted sensors to enable paralysed people to control computers and robotic arms with their brain signals. Three people with paralysis below the neck that affects all of their limbs participated in a 2018 study published in the journal PLOS ONE. They used an experimental brain-computer interface that the consortium BrainGate was testing. For things like email and apps, the interface monitors cerebral activity from a tiny sensor in the brain.

Nine patients with chronic spinal cord injuries were able to regain their ability to walk thanks to a recent study published in the journal Nature by researchers at the Swiss research facility NeuroRestore. This study identified a type of neuron that is activated by electrical stimulation of the spinal cord. In order to restore vision, researchers have also been developing brain-machine interfaces.

Despite the fact that some businesses have created retinal implants, according to Rao, Musk’s announcement indicated that his team would use signals that would directly target the visual cortex of the brain, a method that certain academic organisations are also investigating, “with mixed results.”

An email sent to the press office was not immediately answered by a Neuralink spokesperson. Neuralink’s ability to access deeper layers of the brain sets it apart from some other devices, according to Dr Jaimie Henderson, a neurosurgery professor at Stanford University and adviser to the company. But he continued, “There are many different systems, and they all have many advantages.”