Elon Musk's brain-machine interface venture, Neuralink, has achieved a significant milestone as the first human participant in its clinical trial received the company’s brain-computer interface (BCI). The news was recently shared by Musk through posts on X, the social media platform he owns.
The inaugural implantation in a human brain occurred on January 28, 2024, with Musk reporting that the patient is recovering well, and initial results demonstrate promising neuron spike detection. The clinical trial, named PRIME, initiated its recruitment in 2023, seeking adult volunteers with paralysis of the arms and legs caused by cervical spinal cord injuries or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Neuralink's PRIME study involves the use of the R1 robot, a precisely robotically implanted brain-computer interface, to implant the N1 devices onto participants' brains. The N1 device comprises several dozen threads housing over 1,000 electrodes, strategically placed on specific brain regions to record neurological activity. This data is then transferred to a connected app for further analysis.
The collected data will be employed to train an algorithm capable of recognizing individual neurological patterns of the implanted patients. Subsequently, the algorithm will be tasked with translating the paralyzed participants' brain activity into computer controls, enabling them to move a cursor or type out words using only their thoughts.
Referred to as "Telepathy" by Musk, the initial application of Neuralink's technology aims to empower users to control phones, computers, and various devices through thought alone. He envisions this technology benefiting individuals who have lost the use of their limbs, drawing parallels to the late Stephen Hawking's ability to communicate faster than a speed typist or auctioneer.
Neuralink secured approval from the FDA to commence its first human trial in the spring of the previous year after overcoming setbacks related to slower-than-expected progress, concerns about the company's treatment of animal subjects, and a federal investigation into its handling of hazardous materials.
The PRIME study is anticipated to span approximately six years, starting with an 18-month primary phase. During this period, participants will undergo nine at-home and in-person clinical check-ins, along with twice-weekly brain-computer interface research sessions. Following the primary study, a long-term follow-up will commence immediately, comprising 20 clinic visits over five years.
Neuralink's strides in merging technology with neuroscience hold promise for addressing paralysis-related challenges and unlocking new possibilities for individuals with neurological conditions. As the clinical trial progresses, the world eagerly awaits further developments in this groundbreaking field.