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Elon Musk’s Neuralink Implants First Wireless Brain Chip in Human

Tech billionaire Elon Musk has posted that a wireless brain chip made by a company he founded has been successfully implanted in a human.

Posting on X, formerly Twitter, he reported the recipient was “recovering well” after the procedure, and that early results showed “promising neuron spike detection”.

No other details were revealed about the clinical trial, of which this test implant is a first step. It was reported earlier that Elon Musks’ neurotech company Neuralink had received the go-ahead from the US Food and Drug Administration in 2023 to conduct a first trial in humans.

The ambitious project, which has generated excitement but also criticism from scientists and medical professionals, aims to transform the way we approach and treat brain disorders.

Neuralink’s wireless brain chip approach, if proven, could help people with conditions such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and even spinal cord injuries. It would do so by enabling a two-directional flow of information, allowing the brain to communicate with external devices, such as computers or smartphones, and vice versa. In turn, the company claims this could lead to restoration of speech, mobility, and more independence for people with neurological disorders.

Unlike existing solutions that rely on wired connections or electrodes, Neuralink’s technology would eliminate the need for cumbersome physical connection.

Despite the excitement surrounding the project, there are significant challenges to overcome, with safety, regulatory and ethical concerns still to be resolved.

The project has made considerable strides since its inception in 2016, with Neuralink successfully implanting the wireless brain chip in animal subjects. The results of these paved the way for the first trial in humans.

While Neuralink’s technology is still in the experimental stage, public and industry interest is running high, given Musk’s reputation for transformative technologies. For him personally, this first-in-human trial will be a significant step towards realizing his vision to merge humans and artificial intelligence.

Early reactions from independent experts to news of the implant, though, were more measured.

Professor Anne Vanhoestenberghe, Professor of Active Implantable Medical Devices at King’s College London, said: “For any company producing medical devices, the first test in human is a significant milestone. For the brain-computer interface (BCI) community … there are only a few other companies who have implanted their devices in humans, so Neuralink has joined a rather small group.”

Professor Vanhoestenberghe noted, though, that Neuralink had not published any information about the participant, nor about the specific aim of the trial. “True success in my mind,” she added “should be evaluated in the long-term, by how stable the interface is over time, and how much it benefits the participant.”

Prof Tara Spires-Jones, President of the British Neuroscience Association, said the idea of brain-machine interfaces had been around for some time, that most of these interfaces required invasive neurosurgery, and were still in experimental stages. “Thus, it will likely be many years” she concluded “before they are commonly available.”

Meanwhile, top tips for maintaining brain health as we age, include doing daily mental exercise, like testing games and puzzles, and building healthy brain snacks into our diets.

You can see Elon’s original post on X here.

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