Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX and CEO at Tesla, founded Neuralink with the purpose of solving a wide-range of brain-related issues via a Brain Machine Interface (BMI) device that is actively under development called ‘Link’. The coin-sized Link chip features 1,024 electrode threads that are implanted into the brain where the thin electrodes can stimulate neurons. Neuralink aims to give paralyzed individuals with serious spinal-cord injuries the ability to control electronic devices with their thoughts, and possibly even restore "full-body functionality".
The company has been testing the technology on animals. In August last year, it showcased how the Link chip works on pigs. In April this year Neuralink provided a first-look on how the brain chip implant works on primates. Medical engineers implanted a Link into a macaque monkey’s brain and trained it to learn how to play a ‘Ping-Pong’ video game with its mind – simply by thinking about it. Neuralink shared a video of the 9-year-old macaque, named ‘Pager,’ who has an N1 Link chip implanted in the sensory area (motor-cortex) of its brain that coordinates hand an arm movements, video below.
On Monday, December 6, Musk participated in Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit where he was asked about his neurotech company. Musk said that Neuralink hopes to start implanting Link microchips in humans as soon as 2022. "Neuralink is working well in monkeys, and we're actually doing just a lot of testing and just confirming that it's very safe and reliable, and the Neuralink device can be removed safely,” said Musk. “We hope to have this in our first humans — which will be people that have severe spinal-cord injuries like tetraplegics, quadriplegics — next year, pending FDA approval,” he shared, adding that Neuralink’s “standards for implanting the device are substantially higher than what the FDA requires.”
Musk said he is “cautiously optimistic” that Neuralink will be able to “restore full-body functionality” to paralyzed individuals, even give people the ability to “be able to walk again, naturally.” “[...] It’s a super big deal, I don’t want to raise hopes unreasonably but I am increasingly convinced that this could be done,” he said. After the Wall Street Journal summit, he reiterated his statement –“I am definitely not saying that we can for sure do this, but I am increasingly confident that it is possible,” he Tweeted.
A Twitter user asked Musk if it was possible to use the Neuralink implant to help their husband recover from memory loss caused by a stroke. –“Replacing faulty/missing neurons with circuits is the right way to think about it. Many problems can be solved just bridging signals between existing neurons,” Musk responded, “Progress will accelerate when we have devices in humans (hard to have nuanced conversations with monkeys) next year.” You can watch Musk discuss all of his companies in the 30-minute Wall Street Journal video, linked below.
I am definitely not saying that we can for sure do this, but I am increasingly confident that it is possible— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 7, 2021
Replacing faulty/missing neurons with circuits is the right way to think about it. Many problems can be solved just bridging signals between existing neurons.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 7, 2021
Progress will accelerate when we have devices in humans (hard to have nuanced conversations with monkeys) next year.
VIDEO: Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit With Elon Musk
Featured Image Source: Neuralink
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.