Elon Musk said his brain chip start-up Neuralink successfully completed its first-ever human trial to implant its experimental wireless brain-computer interface, and the patient is doing well.
The neurotechnology company completed the first N1 implant robotic surgery Sunday, January 28th.
Musk announced the news Monday on X.
“Initial results show promising neuron spike detection,” Musk said, referring to the ability of the implant device to transmit brain signals wirelessly to a special app designed to receive them.
Musk, who added that “the first Neuralink product is called Telepathy,” is hoping the groundbreaking PRIME Study (short for Precise Robotically Implanted Brain-Computer Interface) will help paralyzed patients restore full mobility by allowing the individual to control bodily movements with only their thoughts via the wireless chip implant.
Last June, at the Viva Technology Conference in Paris, Musk had said the first test subject would be a tetraplegic or paraplegic patient.
The implant “enables control of your phone or computer and through them almost any device, just by thinking. Initial users will be those who have lost the use of their limbs," Musk said in a following post.
“Imagine if Stephen Hawking could communicate faster than a speed typist or auctioneer. That is the goal,” he said.
Although the trial has brought real hope to severely paralyzed individuals worldwide, it has been mixed reviews on social media – some are excited about the possibilities, while others have expressed concerns about transhumanism and the loss of ultimate privacy.
“But Elon , how do the people know or how can they be sure that this won’t be used for sinister purposes or against them to control an monitor them?,” X user @euphorio_ questioned.
“I have said that one day will be able to post on X with just using our minds! Its pretty much happening. This is going to change and improve so many lives, thank you to the entire Neuralink team!,” said X user @BigImpactHumans.
What does the PRIME study involve?
The six-year-long trial is designed to test out the safety and functionality of the device and the surgical robot (R1), which was implanting the device using ultra-fine and flexible threads in the region of the human brain that controls movement intention.
The implant, hermetically sealed in a biocompatible enclosure, is said to be able to withstand harsher conditions than those in the human body.
This past September, Nueralink opened up a Patient Registry to recruit test volunteers after a years-long process of getting approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conduct the human experiment.
Qualified volunteers included individuals who have quadriplegia due to cervical spinal cord injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
The first part of the study involves a combination of nine at-home and in-person clinic visits over approximately 18 months, according to Neuralink.
The long term follow-up portion of the study will take place over five years, with a total of 20 visits.
Musk had originally announced that the first implant trial would be live-streamed to the Reuters news agency, but there has been no mention of that happening or at which hospital the experiment took place.
The bumpy road to FDA approval
Meanwhile, the road to the groundbreaking surgery has not been smooth sailing for the leading edge company.
Multiple investigations and safety concerns led the FDA to reject Musk’s 2022 bid for approval. Regulators have questioned the safety of the implant’s lithium battery and if it could migrate into brain tissue, as well as the implant’s safe removal.
Neuralink was also subjected to intense scrutiny by several other US federal agencies and animal safety advocates for its reported mishandling of animal experiments in an effort to rush its scientific research, resulting in a high number of animal deaths.
Earlier this month, Neuralink was fined by the US Department of Transportation in an unrelated case for improper containment and movement of dangerous pathogens found on implanted chips removed from monkey brains.
The California-based tech company was founded by Musk in 2016.
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