A microchip in the human brain. Elon Musk has announced that his startup Neuralink has installed its first brain implant in a human, with “promising initial results.” The neurotechnology company co-founded by the South African entrepreneur (naturalized American) in 2016 aims to build direct communication channels between the brain and computers. The ambition is to enhance human capabilities, cure neurological disorders such as ALS or Parkinson’s and perhaps one day achieve a symbiotic relationship between humans and artificial intelligence.
“The first human received an implant from Neuralink yesterday (Sunday January 28) and is recovering well,” Musk wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter. “The initial results show promising neuronal spike detection,” he added. The company’s first product will be called Telepathy: it would allow control of the telephone or computer simply using the power of thought, through very thin wires that help transmit signals into the participants’ brains. The first users will be those who have lost the use of their limbs.
The first human received an implant from @Neuralink yesterday and is recovering well.
Initial results show promising neuron spike detection.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 29, 2024
Last year Neuralink said it had received approval from US regulators (Food and Drug Administration) to test its brain implants on people. Recruitment of volunteers began at the end of last year. Neuralink’s technology will work primarily through an implant called a “link,” a device the size of five stacked coins that is inserted into the human brain through invasive surgery. Neuralink ended 2023 with more than 400 employees and $363 million in fundraising.
Musk is not alone in attempting to make progress in this field, which is officially known as “brain-machine or brain-computer interface research,” a direct means of communication between a brain (or more generally functional parts of the system central nervous system) and an external device such as, for example, a computer. To join forces, the tycoon had contacted the implant developer Synchron, for a potential investment. Unlike the Neuralink “link”, its implant version does not require cutting the skull to install it. Synchron, an Australian company, implanted its first device in a US patient in July 2022.
Neuralink has already conducted extensive studies on implants in animals, drawing criticism from many activists who say the company has abused animal rights by violating the Animal Welfare Act, the law that regulates how researchers can treat and experiment on certain animals. .