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Neuralink ready to start human trial, waiting for FDA approval

Jul 17, 2019, 11:13 am

Neuralink, a company funded by Elon Musk, has been secretly experimenting with rats and their experiment has been successful. During its first-ever demonstration, the startup showed that it can record a rat’s brain activity through thousands of tiny electrodes which are surgically implanted alongside the rat’s neurons and synapses.

Their process causes less damage than existing techniques. They are waiting for the approval of the U.S Food and Drug Administration so that they can start the human trials. 4 holes of 8mm size will be made into the skull of paralyzed patients. After which implants will be inserted through those holes that will give them the ability to control computers and smartphones using their thought.

This is going to sound pretty weird, but ultimately, we will achieve symbiosis with artificial intelligence. This is not a mandatory thing. It is a thing you can choose to have if you want. This is something that I think will be really important on a civilization-level scale – Elon Musk, Founder, CEO, and lead designer of SpaceX

Figuring out how to successfully insert the device inside the brain is obviously going to be tricky, for the lack of a better word. The brain forms scar tissues around the wires due to the brain’s tendency to treat any probe as foreign invaders. “All of this will occur quite slowly,” Musk says. “It’s not going to be like suddenly, Neuralink will have this incredible neural lace and start taking over people’s brains. It will take a long time, and you will see it coming.”

Neuralink has built a robot that uses high-end optics to peer into holes drilled in the skull and then place the wires precisely. Each wire is one-quarter the width of a human hair and laced with dozens of electrodes. The lenses and computer vision software help the robot avoid hitting blood vessels which means that there would be less damage to the brain, and hence, the formation of scar tissues would be less.

According to their research paper, Neuralink has performed at least 19 surgeries on animals and have been successful 87% of the time. The breakthrough lab rat was one of them. A wire attached to a USB-C port in its head transmitted its thoughts to a nearby computer. Philip Sabes, a Neuralink researcher, says the amount of data being gathered from the rat was about 10 times greater than what today’s most powerful sensors can collect.

The company has been successful with their experiments on primates as asserted by Musk himself, “We definitely need to address the monkey in the room. This is a sensitive subject. A monkey has been able to control a computer with its brain.”

We will painlessly laser-drill the holes into the skull, place the threads, plug the hole with the sensor, and then you go home. It’ll basically be an experience like getting Lasik – Max Hodak, President, Neuralink  

If everything goes right, the patients will be able to input words into a text message or email; simply by thinking them.

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