Neuralink’s Brain Implant Trial: A New Era of Human-Machine Symbiosis
Elon Musk’s company, Neuralink, has exciting news – they’re now accepting applications from individuals who are willing to participate in their experimental N1 computer interface implantation.
This marks a significant step in Neuralink‘s journey, as they launch their first in-human study called PRIME, which stands for Precise Robotically Implanted Brain-Computer Interface.
Neuralink is particularly interested in individuals dealing with quadriplegia due to cervical spinal cord injuries or those living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). To be eligible for the study, applicants should be at least 22 years old and have a consistent and reliable caregiver.
Interestingly, Elon Musk had mentioned in 2022 that he planned to have the device implanted in his own brain. However, it appears that he might not be among the initial group of participants in this trial.
Established in 2016, Neuralink is dedicated to developing cutting-edge technology that establishes a direct connection between the human brain and a computer interface. This innovation aims to empower individuals with neurological conditions by enabling them to communicate with and control various devices. Imagine a person with paralysis being able to use their phone simply by thinking about moving their hand. Looking ahead, Musk, known for his grand visions, envisions that this technology could potentially grant humans “superhuman cognition.”
Exciting times lie ahead as Neuralink takes significant strides toward revolutionizing the way we interface with technology and augment human capabilities.
Before aiming for ambitious goals, Neuralink has expressed its intention to prioritize safety and functionality through the PRIME study. This study aims to evaluate the safety of its N1 implant and the surgical robot, known as R1. Furthermore, it seeks to assess the initial capabilities of its brain-computer interface (BCI), which is designed to enable individuals with paralysis to control external devices using their thoughts.
Explaining the process, Neuralink stated, “During the study, the R1 robot will be used to surgically place the N1 implant’s ultra-fine and flexible threads in a region of the brain that controls movement intention.” Once in position, the N1 implant is virtually invisible and is meant to wirelessly record and transmit brain signals to an app that interprets movement intention.
The primary objective of the BCI, in its initial stages, is to empower individuals to control a computer cursor or keyboard solely through their thoughts.
This significant PRIME study has received an investigational device exemption (IDE) from the FDA, granted in May. Neuralink sees it as a crucial step in its mission to create a universal brain interface that can provide autonomy to those with unmet medical needs.
Neuralink made headlines last year when it shared a video of a monkey playing Pong using the BCI, controlled entirely by its thoughts. The same method was used to move a computer mouse cursor. However, the company has faced criticism for its use of animals in research, despite its commitment to their well-being. In response to claims about monkey fatalities, Musk clarified that “No monkey has died as a result of a Neuralink implant.” He explained that terminally ill monkeys were chosen for early trials to minimize risks to healthy ones.
Other companies, like BrainGate, have also developed similar technology. BrainGate enabled a paralyzed individual to communicate thoughts by converting imagined handwriting into text.
While it’s still early days for Neuralink, there’s hope that this technology could eventually bring real-world benefits to people with paralysis, or even fulfill Musk’s ambitious vision of achieving something even more extraordinary.