Neuralink seems to have gained a lot of knowledge and, above all, faith in its own product from its tests on animals. The chips are now to be inserted into human brains for the first time. With his special brain implants, Elon Musk’s company has set out to create a revolutionary connection between humans and computers. The first target: people with paralysis.
Like a science fiction movie
Self-driving cars, space flights for everyone, and now brain implants that make humans and computers one. Elon Musk’s companies seem to be tackling goals that were unthinkable a few years ago and are more reminiscent of science fiction movies. With Neuralink, another product now seems to be close to market maturity. At least they seem to want to get serious and start with the first tests on humans. The company has not officially announced this. However, our colleagues from SPIEGEL have discovered corresponding job advertisements. Neuralink is currently looking for a study director to supervise these tests.
First implants before the end of this year
As we are used to from multi-billionaire and jack-of-all-trades Elon Musk, the clinical trial is by no means a long-term story. If he has his way, the brain implants should receive approval as soon as possible. For this, tests on living objects are, of course, mandatory. After there were apparently no serious complications in animals, humans are now the focus of attention. But for Musk himself, things should actually have gone even faster.
Thus, he already announced in 2019 that they wanted to start trials on humans in 2020. When it became clear that this goal could not be achieved, the whole thing was postponed. The Corona pandemic certainly played an important role in this. But in early December 2021, the native South African told the Wall Street Journal that he had a new plan, full of zest for action. For example, he said, the agenda includes conducting successful tests on humans in 2022 in order to finally receive approval from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA).
What benefits does the technology bring?
When the public first started talking about Neuralink, there were sometimes abstruse visions of the future. The chip was supposed to lead to a symbolic fusion between man and machine. People would be able to carry their smartphones in their brains at all times. Whether, when and, above all, to what extent this will happen still seems to be written in the stars. Although Elon Musk would like to be able to use a corresponding chip in healthy people in the future, medical aspects are obviously in his sights for the time being. This is also the case in the clinical study. With the help of the computer chip, the entrepreneur wants to help quadriplegics. These suffer from a paralysis, which resulted from a damage of the spinal cord and can move only neck and head.
Successful animal experiments
Of course, Elon Musk knows how good marketing works. This is as true for Tesla as it is for Neuralink. Accordingly, the company presented a result of successful animal testing in a media-friendly way. The focus of the whole thing was a monkey that wore a corresponding implant. This enabled him to play the classic video game “Pong”. A truly impressive result. But Neuralink is of course not the first project to take on the “repair” of the human brain. For decades, physicians have been conducting research in this field, for example, to help the blind see again and the paralyzed walk. The cornerstone of Neuralink’s work is the approval of “deep brain simulation” by the FDA, which took place almost 20 years ago. We are excited to see what comes out of Neuralink’s clinical trial.