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17 July, 2024
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Would you let Elon Musk drill into your brain?

Neuralink searches for first human to receive its chip implant

Source: New York Post

Elon Musk’s chip implant company Neuralink is looking for its first volunteer who is willing to have a piece of their skull removed so that a robotic surgeon can insert thin wires and electrodes into their brain.

The ideal candidate will be a quadriplegic under the age of 40 who will also for a procedure that involves implanting a chip, which has 1,000 electrodes, into their brain, the company told Bloomberg News.

The interface would enable computer functions to be performed using only thoughts via a “think-and-click” mechanism.

After a surgeon removes a part of the a skull, a 7-foot-tall robot, dubbed “R1,” equipped with cameras, sensors and a needle will push 64 threads into the brain while doing its best to avoid blood vessels, Bloomberg reported.

Each thread, which is around 1/14th the diameter of a strand of human hair, is lined with 16 electrodes that are programmed to gather data about the brain.

The task is assigned to robots since human surgeons would likely not be able to weave the threads into the brain with the precision required to avoid damaging vital tissue.

The electrodes are designed to record neural activity related to movement intention. These neural signals are then decoded by Neuralink computers.

R1 has already performed hundreds of experimental surgeries on pigs, sheep, and monkeys. Animal rights groups have been critical of Neuralink for alleged abuses.

“The last two years have been all about focus on building a human-ready product,” Neuralink co-founder DJ Seo told Bloomberg News.

“It’s time to help an actual human being.”

It is unclear if Neuralink plans to pay the volunteers.

The Post has sought comment from the company.

Those with paralysis due to cervical spinal cord injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis may qualify for the study, but the company did not reveal how many participants would be enrolled in the trial, which will take about six years to complete.

Musk's company is seeking quadriplegics who are okay with their skull being opened so that with a wireless brain-computer implant, which has 1,000 electrodes, could be lodged into their brain.

Neuralink, which had earlier hoped to receive approval to implant its device in 10 patients, was negotiating a lower number of patients with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after the agency raised safety concerns, according to current and former employees.

It is not known how many patients the FDA ultimately approved.

“The short-term goal of the company is to build a generalized brain interface and restore autonomy to those with debilitating neurological conditions and unmet medical needs,” Seo, who also holds the title of vice president for engineering, told Bloomberg.

“Then, really, the long-term goal is to have this available for billions of people and unlock human potential and go beyond our biological capabilities.”

Musk has grand ambitions for Neuralink, saying it would facilitate speedy surgical insertions of its chip devices to treat conditions like obesity, autism, depression and schizophrenia.

In May, the company said it had received clearance from the FDA for its first-in-human clinical trial, when it was already under federal scrutiny for its handling of animal testing.

Even if the BCI device proves to be safe for human use, it would still potentially take more than a decade for the startup to secure commercial use clearance for it, according to experts.

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