Elon Musk, owner of Neuralink, said his company installed a brain implant in its first human patient with encouraging initial results.
“The first human received a Neuralink implant yesterday and is recovering well,” Musk wrote. He added: “Initial results show promising neuronal spike detection.”
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The tycoon's company has been working since its foundation on a brain implant aimed at helping patients with severe paralysis to control external technologies, solely through neural signals.
Elon Musk stated that his company Neuralink successfully carried out the first brain implant in a human patient (Photo: Reuters/Dado Ruvic)
Neuralink began recruiting patients for its first-in-human clinical trial late last year after receiving approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The coin-sized implant is placed in the brain through surgery and until now had only been tested in monkeys with controversial results. While the company claimed that the apes learned to play the Pong video game without a joystick or keyboard, different organizations denounced cruel treatment of the animals and argued that many died in the experiments.
If the technology works correctly, patients with serious degenerative diseases such as ALS could one day use the implant to communicate or access social networks by moving cursors and typing with their minds. “Imagine if Stephen Hawking could have communicated faster than a speedy typist,” Musk wrote. “That's the goal.”
The neurotechnology firm co-founded by Musk in 2016 aims to build direct communication channels between the brain and computers. And its goal is to enhance human capabilities, treat neurological disorders like Parkinson's, and perhaps one day achieve a symbiotic relationship between humans and artificial intelligence.
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Although Neuralink did not reveal how many human patients will participate in its initial trial, this clinical trial is just one more step in Neuralink's path toward commercialization of its products. Medical device companies must go through several rounds of intense testing and safety data collection before gaining final approval from the FDA.
The Neuralink chip is the size of a small coin. (Photo: AFP)
Neuralink: mutilated monkeys and uncertain future
In 2016, Musk founded Neuralink, a company developing brain implants that could be used to control electronic devices with the mind. However, Neuralink's progress was not as expected and is going very slowly. To date, the company has still not been able to market any products.
In 2023, Musk announced that Neuralink had successfully achieved a brain implant in a monkey that could play Pong with just its mind. However, some experts questioned the reliability of the results.
Reports indicated that many of the apes and pigs in laboratory trials died after receiving the chip. Last year, a committee in the United States that promotes responsible medicine filed a complaint with the United States Department of Agriculture, disclosing documents related to monkeys used in research between 2017 and 2020. They said the records indicated that the animals had experienced “suffering.” extreme”.
Elon Musk's company showed a monkey with an implanted chip playing a video game. (Photo: Neuralink)
In the presentation they detailed various ailments, including cases of monkeys missing fingers and toes due to self-mutilation, skin infections, brain collapse and other side effects. “They think we are too stupid to know what they are doing (…) It is clear that they are trying to hide that the animals suffered and died,” they noted.
In his defense, Musk assured that the implants did not directly cause deaths. Instead, he explained that they chose terminally ill apes for testing. “On the other hand, there are monkeys that have had Neuralink implants for two or three years, and they are doing very well,” he mentioned.