Elon Musk

Neuralink's priority is taking care of Animals as its brain-machine interface is developed [video]

Neuralink's priority is taking care of Animals as its brain-machine interface is developed [video]

Featured Image Source: Neuralink

Neuralink is a company founded by Elon Musk that is actively developing a brain-machine interface (BMI). The neurotechnology venture aims to push the limits of what a BMI can achieve. Initially, Neuralink engineers and medical professionals aim to develop a device that is capable of helping paralyzed individuals control computerized devices with their minds, including prosthetic limbs and cell phones. Musk envisions the Neuralink brain-chip implant could evolve to eventually help reverse memory loss, restore eyesight and hearing, even cure a variety brain-related illnesses like Autism, depression, addiction, etc. –“It could, in principle, fix anything that's wrong with the brain,” he says. Ultimately, Musk aims to merge humans with Artificial Intelligence (AI) through the brain-chip.

On Friday, August 28, Musk hosted a presentation alongside Neuralink staff, during which the brain-chip device was demonstrated live on pigs. The chip, called ‘Link’, is a small coin featuring 1,024 electrode threads that are carefully implanted by a surgical robot inside the brain to stimulate neurons. Neuralink doctors implanted a Link chip inside a pig named Gertrude. The Link device is actively recording signals from Gertrude's sensory area in the brain that is linked to the nerves on her snout. Musk said Gertrude has been doing well with the implant for two months. To demonstrate how the Link chip works, caregivers would offer Gertrude food, as she smelled and looked for food, a screen displayed a visual array of dots and played a sound whenever the Link detected that Gertrude made contact to something with her snout.

“Pigs are a model that actually approximates humans in some interesting ways, in terms of size, biomechanics of the skull. They are very adept at exploring their environments using their senses; their sense of touch with their snout in particular,” Neuralink representative said in a video release, “We can tap into that part of their brain and decode those intentions.”



In the video Neuralink released today, staff talks about how the animals they do research with are their top priority. All staff ensures every animal is treated with love and compassion – as they should, these animals are the pioneers that will aid in the creation of a device that could one day help thousands of individuals improve their quality of life, free of neurological, psychological, and physical impediments. Neuralink’s Attending Veterinarian Sam Baker stated –

“I oversee all facets of the animal care program, from the day to day husbandry, to ensure that these animals are always looked after to the best of our ability.”

– “We want to be more kind, we want to be more humane. People coming into the field are really pushing that,” Neuralink Lead Behaviorist Autumn Sorells said, “One of my jobs is to help design behavioral plans and training plans for the animals we use in neural research. Make sure that the spaces they are in are comfortable and designed in such a way that they can express their full behavioral repertoire.” Sorells also shared that the company has a committee that was created to prevent employees from experiencing “compassion fatigue;” They meet every week to discuss how they feel, “So every day we have the energy we need to provide good loving compassion to the animals,” she said.

Neuralink Engineer Ankita Urala shared she really cares for the animals – “I am one of the people who makes the devices using my hands, I’m constantly thinking that this is gonna’ go into ‘Vibro’ [pig] this is gonna’ go into ‘Cleo’ [pig] and we know their names, we have seen them.”



Animals at Neuralink are trained with positive reinforcement techniques. “Positive reinforcement is where you offer an animal an opportunity to form a behavior and be rewarded for it if they choose to participate in it,” Sorells said, “We do give them the option of not participating.” The company states it ensures the animals enjoy their time at the lab and that it has multiple specialized individuals caring for the animals on a daily basis.



About the Author

Evelyn Arevalo

Evelyn 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.

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