Elon Musk’s Neuralink Unveils Brain Implant Plan

By Amit Chowdhry ● July 20, 2019
  • Neurotechnology company NeuraLink has unveiled its brain implant plan, which includes a tiny problem with more than 3,000 electrodes attached to flexible threads that can monitor 1,000 neurons

NeuraLink — a neurotechnology company founded by Elon Musk — has unveiled what it has been working on for the last couple of years. It is working on a brain implant that would enable patients with severe neurological conditions to control computers.

The system has been tested on a monkey and now the company is applying for permission from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conduct human trials.

The implant that NeuraLink developed includes a tiny probe that contains over 3,000 electrodes attached to flexible threads that is thinner than a human hair — which can monitor the activity of 1,000 neurons.

With this system, it can target very specific areas of the brain thus making it surgically safer.  And it would also be able to analyze recordings with machine learning, which would be able to determine what type of stimulation to give patients.

Neuralink’s brain-machine interface (BMI) would especially benefit those who have brain disorders such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease. You can learn more about the project in the video below:

Musk pointed out that connecting the brain to an interface essentially creates a new layer of “superintelligence” in the human brain just like have people have “via their phones.”

With around 100 employees, Neuralink is hiring more scientists now. And the company published a paper about how it works.

Musk acknowledged that Neuralink’s actual launch will “take a long time.” And getting FDA approval for implantable devices of any kind “is quite difficult and this will be a slow process.” In the meantime, Neuralink will gradually increase the issues that it solves until it can do a full brain-machine interface.

Neuralink president Max Hodak acknowledged that there has been a long history of academic research around this innovation. “We’re, in the greatest sense, building on the shoulders of giants,” said Hodak via Teslarati. For example, Brown University developed BrainGate, which was implanted into Matthew Nagle — who had suffered from a spinal cord injury. In 2006, Nagle learned how to use a computer with the brain implants and was also able to play Pong with his mind.

Neuralink Head Neurosurgeon Matthew MacDougall explained that the implants could become as seamless as going for Lasik in the future. The reason why Neuralink unveiled the project now is so that it could also potentially attract talent.

Musk — who is also CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors — put in $100 million out of the total $158 million that Neuralink raised. And Neuralink project director Shivon Zilis told The New York Times that Musk has been very active in trying to help solve the engineering problems that Neuralink faces on a regular basis.