Neuralink Corporation is a neuro-technology company that has been founded in 2016 by billionaire tech entrepreneur, Elon Musk. The company develops brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) that are implantable. This technology helps humans to communicate with machines with the help of their brains. This ambitious project is almost on the verge of being released commercially. Neuralink could aid in studies related to neuroscience and neuroanatomy.
Elon Musk made an announcement on August 28th, in which Neuralink showed prototypes of its device. Musk also showcased pigs that supposedly had devices implanted in their brains. One such pig, named Gertrude, had a device that recorded signals from an area of the brain that was linked to her snout. Every time Gertrude’s snout touched something, various dots and noises indicated neurons firing up. The second pig, Joyce, had no implant. The third, Dorothy, had a device implanted and then removed. This was to show that the device can be implanted and then removed, still leaving behind a healthy, happy, normal individual. This was done to show that people can remove or upgrade the device as and when required.
The device looks like a coin, with very thin wires on one side of it. It is designed to be implanted in the skull. The wires will then be embedded a few millimeters into the brain’s surface. The wires will be able to detect when neurons fire as well as emit their signals to make neurons fire.
Neuralink will be using robots that have been specifically devised for this procedure. The robot will insert the module into the brain using a microscope. The operation will involve a 2mm incision. It will then be dilated to 8mm. The installation will take up to 2 hours and will require local anesthesia.
According to Musk, initially, the device will primarily be used in the medical field. The machine may be able to help paraplegics with a few simple tasks. It may also help in treating epilepsy. Musk also mentioned in earlier interviews that Neuralink can be used to restore movement, memory, and speech of someone suffering from paralysis. Another claim made by the company is that users will be able to stream music into their brains.
Musk has also stated earlier that devices like these could help humans compete with Artificial Intelligence. Musk considers AI a threat to humanity. Musk also made claims that this technology will be able to help someone summon a Tesla, allow a person with a spinal injury to walk, or even play video games. He has also mentioned earlier, that Neuralink is on track for human trials soon.
Other long-term goals of this technology involve allowing humans to interact with devices mentally, allowing humans to collect data via a chip, and much more.
Timir Datta-Chaudhuri, of the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, New York, said that the tech company has pulled off a challenging part and that the animal was looking normal, happy, while still relaying constant data. However, Datta-Chaudhuri also mentioned that the safety of the devices still needs to be proved. The potential damage to the brain might not be easily observable at times. Neuroscience experts have also said, that while Neuralink’s mission to stimulate brain activity seems viable, its timeline seems very ambitious.