Last year, Elon Musk’s company Neuralink shared a video of a monkey playing ping pong with its mind. A few days later, Musk tweeted that this technology could be tested in humans and can possibly cure brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
With this, Musk hopes to implant the coin-sized computing brain implant into human patients, he revealed at an event held at the company’s California headquarter.
“We think probably in about six months, we should be able to have a Neuralink installed in a human,” Musk said at the event.
Besides, Musk said its company is also working on two major products – it’s developing implants that can go into the spinal cord and potentially restore movement in someone suffering from paralysis. And it has an ocular implant meant to improve or restore human vision.
What Is Neuralink?
Musk founded Neuralink, the Brain Control Interfaces startup six years ago. The company is building technology that could be embedded in a person's brain, where it could both record brain activity and potentially stimulate it.
It has been working on a chip that can be implanted in the human brain and linked to a computer. This chip will monitor and potentially stimulate brain activity.
The chip Neuralink is developing is about the size of a coin, and would be surgically inserted into the brain using robotics by neurosurgeons.
In this procedure, a chipset called the link is implanted in the skull. It has a number of insulated wires connected from the electrodes that are used in the process.
This device can then be used to operate smartphones and computers. Neuralink has in recent years been conducting tests on animals as it seeks approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin clinical trials in people.
"We want to be extremely careful and certain that it will work well before putting a device into a human," Musk said.
How Neuralink Can Be Useful?
Neuralink can be used as a connection between the human brain and technology. This means that people with paralysis can easily operate their phones and computer directly with their brains.
The chipset wires will be able to both monitor brain activity and electrically stimulate the brain.
"We've already got a monkey with a wireless implant in their skull, and the tiny wires, who can play video games using his mind," Musk said during a long and wide-ranging interview on Clubhouse.
Improved neural interface technology like Neuralink could be used to better study and treat severe neurological conditions such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Musk in 2019 said Neuralink could in the future "solve a lot of brain-related diseases,"
Controversy Around Neuralink
While Musk’s company has been testing its chip on monkeys, it was last year that it was
accused of subjecting its monkeys to illegal mistreatment and extreme suffering during chip implant tests.
According to a Business Insider report, an animal-rights group submitted an official complaint to the US Department of Agriculture where they claimed that monkeys experience "extreme suffering as a result of inadequate animal care and the highly invasive experimental head implants during the experiments."
The group also claimed that out of 23 monkeys owned by Neuralink, only seven survived the tests and were transferred to a Neuralink facility in 2020, while 15 died.
However, Neuralink said only eight were euthanised, the report said.
Earlier in April 2021, the company released a video that showed a monkey, which has a Neuralink chip placed in its head, playing the video game called 'Pong' on a computer.