Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Neuralink seeks human volunteers for its brain implant

Recently, Elon Musk’s Neuralink company received the green light from US authorities to test its brain implant directly on humans. However, a few months ago such controversial tests were not considered.

The FDA has changed its mind

The project of the company Neuralink (founded in 2016 by Elon Musk) consists of developing a computer chip that will be implanted in the human brain. This is a question of direct neural interfaces. Initially, this technology should allow paralyzed people control a computer with thought and subsequently help treat diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

In 2020, a first chip was presented. It had the following dimensions: 23mm diameter and 8mm thick. Tests on animals (mainly monkeys) were started, but Neuralink faced a complaint from an animal rights association. The company allegedly caused extreme suffering and death to the majority of the subjects, thus violating nothing less than nine animal welfare laws.

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In March 2023 we mentioned the fact that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had blocked the Neuralink project. This administration that regulates the marketing of medicines in the United States has simply opposed to human trials. However, as Neuralink explains in a press release published on September 19, 2023, the FDA has just changed its mind.

Credits: Neuralink

Test the effectiveness and safety of the implant.

In its publication, the neurotechnology company indicates that it is officially opening recruitment for first tests of its implant in humans. True to its project, the company is aimed at quadriplegics and other people with disabilities, mainly affected by multiple sclerosis or a spinal cord injury. These first trials will be carried out as part of the PRIME (Precise Robotically Implanted Brain-Computer Interface) study, an investigation that is itself part of an FDA program. As expected, these first tests should allow us to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of this implant which Neuralink presents as revolutionary.

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In fact, Neuralink will use a R1 surgical robot to place the numerous extremely thin cables of the N1 brain implant. When the chip is installed, it will record the data that will be transmitted to an application that will take care of set the intention of the movement. It remains to be seen if the implant will be able to recognize the intention of the movement and above all without causing problems that could compromise the integrity of the volunteers.

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