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Neuralink: First Brain Implant on a Patient

Neuralink: First Brain Implant on a Patient
Neuralink: First Brain Implant on a Patient (Credit: Neuralink)

Elon Musk announced it on Monday night. Neuralink, the company he founded in 2016, has successfully implanted its first brain implant in a human patient. In May of last year, Neuralink obtained approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, Neuralink is not the first to install a brain implant, also known as a brain-machine interface (BMI), in a human.

On Monday, Elon Musk announced the successful placement of a brain implant, Telepathy, in a human brain. The size of a coin, this implant had already been placed in the brain of a macaque, enabling it to play the video game Pong without a controller or keyboard.

On his social network, X, Elon Musk wrote:

“The first human received an implant from @Neuralink yesterday and is recovering well. Initial results show promising neuron spike detection.”

Telepathy connects the human brain to a machine. It allows, through thought, the control of a computer, smartphone, or any electronic device.

Neuralink’s technology is based on electrodes. These were inserted into the cerebral cortex using a small surgical robot.

The initial goal is medical. Such technology could, for example, allow tetraplegics who have lost the use of their legs to control them again through thought.

Neuralink’s technology is based on electrodes. (Credit: Neuralink)
These were inserted into the cerebral cortex using a small surgical robot. (Credit: Neuralink)

Not a First

It is a first for Neuralink, but not a global first. Other companies have already achieved this brain-machine interface (BMI) feat.

In France, researchers from the Grenoble-based institute Clinatec presented an implant in 2019 that allowed a tetraplegic person to operate an exoskeleton and move their arms or walk.

Last year, other CEA researchers enabled a paraplegic patient to walk again using an implant that stimulates the spinal cord.

Here is another example. In September last year, the Dutch company Onward announced it was testing coupling a brain implant with another implant stimulating the spinal cord. The goal is also to enable a tetraplegic patient to regain mobility.

An Implant for Everyone?

Such technology could potentially help other patients in the future. Such an implant could, for example, be used to restore sight or speech.

But Elon Musk wants to go much further. The billionaire has never hidden his ambition to move towards augmented humanity. He envisions offering the implant to everyone, even those without disabilities. For him, this technology would enable communication with machines. But it could also “contain the risk to our civilization” posed by artificial intelligence.

Last year, Neuralink raised $323 million to finance future tests. On the Neuralink website, it is possible to sign up as future users and participate in clinical trials.