Elon Musk's brain-computer interface (BCI) start-up Neuralink has received FDA Approval and is now in search of people for its first human guinea pigs.
The company's goal is said to be to connect human brains to computers with its first tests to people with differing forms of paralysis. Neuralink won US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for its first human clinical trial in May with the FDA reportedly citing 'no reservations' about the clinical trials.
The FDA approval represented "an important first step that will one day allow our technology to help many people", Neuralink said at the time.
Seemingly even more dystopian than it first appears, the chip will not be implanted by a surgeon but by a robot. The robot will surgically place 64 flexible threads, thinner than a human hair, on to a part of the brain that controlled "movement intention", the company has said.
These allow Neuralink's experimental N1 implant - powered by a battery that can be charged wirelessly - to record and transmit brain signals wirelessly to an app that decodes how the person intends to move. The company says people may qualify for the trial if they have quadriplegia due to injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) - a disease in which the nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain degenerate.
The company announced that the human trials will be used to evaluate the safety of its “fully implantable, wireless brain-computer interface.” It will test the effectiveness and safeness of the company’s implant and surgical robot, which aims to enable “people with paralysis to control external devices with their thoughts.”
Musk, who also owns X and Tesla, wrote that the first patient “will soon receive a Neuralink device.”
“This ultimately has the potential to restore full body movement,” Musk wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “In the long term, Neuralink hopes to play a role in AI risk civilizational risk reduction by improving human to AI (and human to human) bandwidth by several orders of magnitude. Imagine if Stephen Hawking had had this.”
Neuralink has dubbed its trial as the Precise Robotically Implanted Brain-Computer Interface Study. According to the announcement, the surgical robot will surgically place the implant’s threads in a part of the brain that controls movement intention. Once placed, the implant is supposed to transmit brain signals to a smartphone app that will decode the intention of the movement.