Musk anticipates that the US regulators will allow brain implant testing.
Elon Musk, tech billionaire and tech entrepreneur, said that his Neuralink company is looking for permission to use its brain implant in humans soon.
Musk stated that his team is currently asking US regulators for permission to test the device in a live streaming presentation. Musk stated that he believes the company should be in a position to place the implant in the human brain in six months as part of a clinical study, but that time frame is not certain.
Musk’s Neuralink, one of many organizations working to link brains with computers, is one of many groups. This effort aims at treating brain disorders and overcoming brain injuries, as well as other applications.
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Rajesh Rao is co-director of the Center for Neurotechnology, University of Washington. It really took off in 1990s. We’ve also seen many advances in communication brain computer interfaces, particularly in recent years.”
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Rao, who watched Musk’s presentation online said that he didn’t believe Neuralink is ahead in terms of brain computer interface achievements. He said that Neuralink is “quite ahead” in terms of hardware.
The Neuralink device measures approximately the same size as a large coin. It is intended to be implanted into the skull with ultra-thin wires directly into the brain. Musk stated that the Neuralink device would first be used to restore vision and help people who have difficulty using digital devices quickly.
He also said that he could see a person with a fractured neck utilizing signals from the brain to connect to Neuralink devices within the spinal cord.
Musk, who is currently the CEO of Tesla SpaceX and Twitter, stated that there are no physical limitations to full body functionality.
Other teams have also tested implanted sensors that allow paralyzed individuals to use brain signals to control computers and operate robotic arms. Three participants suffering from paralysis below their necks that affected all of the limbs were able to use an experimental brain-computer interface, which was published in PLOS ONE 2018. To navigate apps and email, the interface monitors neural activity using a tiny sensor within the brain.
Scientists at the Swiss NeuroRestore research center discovered a neuron that can be activated by electrical stimulation of the spinal cord. This allowed nine patients suffering from chronic spinal cord injury to regain their ability to walk.
Brain and machine interfaces have been a focus of researchers for the restoration of vision. Rao stated that companies have already developed retinal implants. Musk’s announcement suggests his team will use signals to target the brain’s visual cortex. This is an approach some academic groups are also trying, though “with limited success.”
The press office sent an email to Neuralink, but they did not respond immediately. Professor of neurosurgery at Stanford University, Dr. Jaimie Henderson is an advisor for Neuralink. He said that Neuralink’s ability to reach deeper levels of the brain is what makes it different from other devices. He added, “There are many different systems with lots of different benefits.”