Neuralink implants brain chip in first patient

Published 2 February 2024
- By Editorial Staff
Neuralink received approval last year to test its implants in humans.

Elon Musk, entrepreneur and founder of neurotechnology company Neuralink, has announced that the first patient to undergo surgery with Neuralink’s brain chip has made a good recovery.

In September, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared the company to conduct the first human trial of its implant.

Neuralink announced the implant study in September last year, saying that a robot developed by the company would surgically place the advanced structure of the implants in the brains of participants.

Elon Musk has announced that Neuralink’s first product is called Telepathy, which works through the brain’s nerve impulses, or “spikes.”

“Spikes” can be described as nerve cell impulses, which the National Institute of Health describes as the use of electrical and chemical signals by nerve cells to send information around the brain and into the body. Simply put, “spikes” are how nerve cells talk to each other.

It enables control of your phone or computer, and through them almost any device, just by thinking. Initial users will be those who have lost the use of their limbs. Imagine if Stephen Hawking could communicate faster than a speed typist or auctioneer. That is the goal, says Elon Musk.

“Initial results show promising neuron spike detection”, Musk wrote in a post on X on Monday, a day after the chip was implanted.

Brain-computer interface for the paralyzed

Neuralink’s study, called Prime, is a pilot project for its wireless brain-computer interface to evaluate the safety of the implant and the surgical robot. Researchers will evaluate the functionality of the interface, which, according to Neuralink’s website, allows people with paralysis to control devices with their thoughts.

In 2017, Musk said the company’s first product would be on the market “in about four years.” Tuesday’s news is a “significant milestone” toward that goal, according to Anne Vanhoestenberghe, a professor of active implantable medical devices at King’s College London.

– For the brain-computer interface community, we must place this news in the context that while there are many companies working on exciting products, there are only a few other companies who have implanted their devices in humans, so Neuralink has joined a rather small group”, she points out.

Neuralink received FDA approval last year for its first study to test the company’s implants in humans. Reuters reported in June that the company was valued at $5 billion, based on private equity deals. The company has not yet disclosed further details about the surgery.

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