Elon Musk’s Neuralink: The first chips are to be used in human brains as early as 2022

Is it possible to treat illness and injury by connecting the human brain directly to a computer? Elon Musk’s company Neuralink is working on exactly this concept and, according to a tweet from the founder, plans to carry out the first tests on humans in 2022.

• Neuralink, founded in 2016 by Elon Musk, plans to insert the first computer chips into human brains in 2022

• The technology is intended to be used in the treatment of patients with severe spinal cord injuries

• Probes of this type already exist from other companies

The first Neuralink chip is expected to be used in the human brain in 2022

Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced in a tweet that his company Neuralink plans to use its first brain-computer interface on human test subjects in 2022. According to Business Insider, this novel technology should be able to record and stimulate brain activity at the same time. In this way, Neuralink intends to make breakthroughs in the treatment of, for example, spinal cord injuries and neurological disorders. In a live stream, Musk expressed his confidence that he would be able to insert the Neuralink chips into the brains of human patients with spinal cord disorders such as quadriplegia for the first time in the coming year. However, the company is still awaiting approval from the US Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (FDA). The quality standards set by Neuralink itself, according to his Musk, are even substantially higher than those of the authority.

The monkey plays a video game – and controls only with his thoughts

Neuralink has already achieved astonishing success with its chips in tests on animals. Earlier this year, the company released footage of a monkey playing the video game Pong using only the interface.

Despite this remarkable result, Elon Musk affirmed even then that the transfer to the human brain would be a far greater challenge. In the technology developed by Neuralink, neurons in the brain are wirelessly connected to a computer, for which a chip that is not visible from the outside is implanted directly into the brain of the test subject. In this way, groundbreaking medical successes such as the bridging of nerve tissue should be achieved in the future, which should enable paraplegic patients to be able to walk again. Although several years of research will probably be required for such a breakthrough, the brain-computer interface should at least make it possible to control devices via brain signals in the near future, which would make everyday life immensely easier for paralysis victims in particular. For example, paralyzed patients could chat with friends and colleagues or do online shopping without using their limbs.

Although the launch of this technology seems Musk-typical next year as being ahead of its time, Neuralink is actually lagging behind the previous announcements made by tech superstar Musk. As t3n reports, he had scheduled the first human test for 2020 in 2019 and then expressed the hope a year later that Neuralink would be ready by the end of 2020. Despite the delay, the start of the human trial in 2021 would be a forward-looking step.

Chips of this type are also being developed by other companies

Neuralink isn’t the only company trying to interface the human brain and computer. In fact, the US company Blackrock Neurotech, for example, claims that it has already used 31 of its chips on human patients. This has made it possible to help a patient with spinal cord damage to write texts and e-mails using only his thoughts, as Blackrock Neurotech explains on its own website. In 2016, thanks to the technology, another patient was able to shake hands with the then US President Barack Obama using a remote-controlled robotic arm.

Thomas Weschle / editors

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