Elon Musk, co-founder of Neuralink, said this week that the company placed the first brain implant in a human over the weekend.
In a statement posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter that is now owned by Musk, the billionaire said the patient was “recovering well.” He added that “initial results show promising neuron spike detection.”
Musk offered no additional details about the patient. But when Neuralink announced in September that it would begin recruiting people for brain implant trials, the company said it was searching for people with quadriplegia due to spinal cord injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Laura Cabrera, who researches brain science at Pennsylvania State University, told the Associated Press that even though Neuralink uses cutting-edge robotic surgery to place the device precisely in the brain, there are potential dangers to the procedure.
Brain surgery is “not a trivial thing,” she said, bringing with it risks such as brain hemorrhage or seizures. “And so I think we have to be mindful that even though they’re using a novel way to implant the device, we just don’t know if it’s truly going to be a … safer approach for human patients.”
Neuralink isn’t the only company developing brain-computer interface technology to treat brain disorders and overcome brain injuries. According to clinicaltrials.gov, there are more than 40 such trials in progress.
Neuralink’s device is about the size of a large coin and is implanted in the skull, with ultra-thin wires going directly into the brain. In its September announcement, Neuralink said the wires would be surgically placed in a region of the brain that controls movement intention. Initially, the goal is to give people the ability to control a computer cursor or keyboard using their thoughts alone.
In a separate post on X, Musk said that Neuralink’s first product is called “Telepathy,” which will enable users to control their phones or computers “just by thinking.” He added that these early users would be those who have lost use of their limbs.
Cabrera pointed out that Neuralink’s competitors plan to use their devices for medical reasons only, but Musk has been clear about going beyond medicine.
For example, Cabrera said, Musk has talked about implants that would enable people to record everything that happens to them and access the information whenever they want.
“We know that he has very bold claims,” she said. “People not really assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the technology is something that I worry about.”
Visit the U.S. Government Accountability Office for more on brain-computer interface technology.
SOURCE: Associated Press
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