Neuralink, Elon Musk’s brain-chip startup, marked a significant milestone as the first human patient received an implant on Sunday. Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of Neuralink, reported on social media platform X that the initial results are promising, showcasing successful neuron spike detection. Neurons, as described by the National Institute of Health, are cells that utilize electrical and chemical signals to transmit information within the brain and to the body.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted Neuralink clearance last year to initiate its first human trial, a crucial step in the company’s pursuit of aiding patients in overcoming paralysis and various neurological conditions. Neuralink received approval for recruiting participants in September, and the trial involves a robot surgically placing a brain-computer interface (BCI) implant in the brain region controlling the intention to move. The primary objective is to empower individuals to control a computer cursor or keyboard using their thoughts.
Neuralink’s implants utilize “ultra-fine” threads to transmit signals within participants’ brains. Elon Musk, in a separate X post, named the first product from Neuralink as Telepathy. The PRIME Study, conducted by the startup, evaluates the safety of the wireless brain-computer interface and the surgical robot used in the implant procedure.
While Neuralink did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for additional details, the company has faced scrutiny over its safety protocols. Earlier this month, Reuters reported that Neuralink was fined for violating U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) rules related to hazardous materials’ movement. In late November, four lawmakers urged the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate whether Musk misled investors about the technology’s safety after veterinary records revealed issues with monkey implants, including paralysis, seizures, and brain swelling.
As of last June, Neuralink was valued at approximately $5 billion. Musk addressed concerns in a social media post on September 10, stating that “no monkey has died as a result of a Neuralink implant.” He emphasized the company’s careful selection of “terminal” monkeys to minimize risks to healthy ones.
Reported by Akash Sriram and Kanjyik Ghosh in Bengaluru; Edited by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Jacqueline Wong