Elon Musk's Neuralink Is Now Inside A Human Being

Few details are available, but this is Neuralink’s first big step toward its lofty ambition of connecting humans to computers.

An illustration of Neuralink is being displayed in Suqian, Jiangsu Province, China, on January 30, 2...

Last May, neurotech startup Neuralink received the federal green light to test its brain implant in human clinical trials. Now, less than a year later, Neuralink’s founder Elon Musk announced on X (formerly Twitter) that its brain-computer interface (or BCI) device was successfully placed in a human recipient.

“The first human received an implant from @Neuralink yesterday and is recovering well. Initial results show promising neuron spike detection,” Musk posted late Monday.

Dubbing the name for the brain implant “Telepathy,” Musk offered no other details or specifics on the participant or the procedure itself; Neuralink did not immediately respond to Inverse’s email requesting comment.

According to a company blog post, its clinical trials — described as part of Neuralink’s Precise Robotically Implanted Brain-Computer Interface (or PRIME) Study — involve placing and installing their quarter-sized N1 brain implant, using a robot along a region of the brain controlling movement intention. The chip is designed to pick up the user’s brain signals, which are used to control an external device.

“[Telepathy] [e]nables 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 added in another post. “Imagine if Stephen Hawking could communicate faster than a speed typist or auctioneer. That is the goal.”

While this announcement is just the first step in Neuralink’s optimistic, if not lofty, ambitions for the reach of its neurotechnology (and likely Musk’s own personal goal for transhumanism), development has been undercut each step of the way by controversy and skepticism.

Documents obtained by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a medical whistleblower group, and seen by a September Wired investigation reveal Neuralink’s monkey subjects were euthanized after suffering debilitating health effects, which included “tattered brains,” brain swelling, and partial paralysis. These reports have contradicted Musk’s claim, posted in September on X, that “no monkey has died as a result of a Neuralink implant.” The medical ethics group has since issued a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate Musk for fraud, potentially misleading his investors regarding the safety of his company’s brain implant.

While Neuralink has received significant attention and spotlight for its brain microchip, the tech behind BCIs is anything but novel or revolutionary. Several other companies like Synchron, Precision Neuroscience, and Paradromics were already working in this space and conducting human clinical trials. Synchron, for example, was the first company to receive the federal go-ahead to test its brain implant in 2021. One of the first participants in Synchron’s in-human studies, Phillip O’Keefe of Melbourne, Australia, who has a progressive neurodegenerative disease, was able to send a tweet using his new brain implant. Precision Neuroscience, as well, began its first-in-human study this past summer.

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