Elon Musk marks major breakthrough as neural implant placed in human for first time

Neuralink logo displayed on mobile with founder Elon Musk seen on screen in the background
Musk said his startup had successfully performed a craniectomy to attach the device to the individual
Getty
Holly Bishop

By Holly Bishop


Published: 30/01/2024

- 11:54

Updated: 30/01/2024

- 13:41

The company’s goal is to connect human brains to computers to help tackle complex neurological conditions

Elon Musk has marked a major breakthrough as he announced a neural implant has been placed into a human for the first time, adding that the patient is “recovering well”.

The billionaire and founder of Neuralink said his startup had successfully performed a craniectomy to attach the device to the individual.


The company’s goal is to connect human brains to computers to help tackle complex neurological conditions and allow paralysed people to move their bodies through their thoughts.

Musk also said that he hoped the product – called “Telepathy” – would allow people with disabilities to be able to “communicate faster than an auctioneer”, mentioning Stephen Hawking as an example.

Elon Musk

Musk also said that he hoped the product would allow people with disabilities to be able to communicate with ease

PA

“Initial results show promising neuron spike detection,” Musk said on social media yesterday.

Spikes are activity by neurons, nerve cells that send messages all over the body.

He added that it will “enable control of your phone or computer, and through them almost any device, just by thinking”.

Last year, the US Food and Drug Administration gave Neuralink clearance to conduct its first trial on humans.

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The six-year study uses a robot to place 64 flexible threads onto a part of the brain that controls “movement intention”, according to Neuralink.

These threads, which are thinner than human hairs, allow the implant to record and transmit brain signals to an app that then decodes how the induvial intends to move.

Whilst details of the successful patient have not been disclosed, in 2015, Elon Musk’s biographer Ashlee Vance, described the ideal candidate.

He said they would be “an adult under age 40 whose four limbs are paralyzed”.

A surgeon would perform the surgery, which would last for a couple of hours before the robot then inserts the chip into the brain.

Elon Musk and Neuralink

Neuralink has come under scrutiny for its treatment on animals

Getty

“The goal is to show that the device can safely collect useful data from that part of the patient's brain, a key step in Neuralink's efforts to convert a person's thoughts into a range of commands a computer can understand,” Vance added.

Earlier this month, Neuralink was fined for violating US Department of Transportation (DOT) rules regarding the movement of hazardous materials.

Last year, the company was embroiled in controversy when veterinary records showed problems with monkeys who had been given the implant. Musk wrote in a social media post in September that “no monkey has died as a result of a Neuralink implant”.

He added that they chose “terminal” monkeys to reduce risk to healthy ones.

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