Elon Musk's Neuralink
Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk's neuroscience startup Neuralink on 28 August 2020 unveiled a pig named Gertrude that has had a coin-sized computer chip in its brain for two months, showing off an early step toward the goal of curing human diseases with the same type of implant. Co-founded by Tesla Inc and SpaceX CEO Musk in 2016, San Francisco Bay Area-based Neuralink aims to implant wireless brain-computer interfaces that include thousands of electrodes in the most complex human organ to help cure neurological conditions like Alzheimer's, dementia and spinal cord injuries and ultimately fuse humankind with artificial intelligence.
- An implantable device can actually solve these problems, Musk said, mentioning ailments such as memory loss, hearing loss, depression and insomnia.
- Musk did not provide a timeline for those treatments, appearing to retreat from earlier statements that human trials would begin by the end of this year.
- Neuralink's first clinical trials with a small number of human patients would be aimed at treating paralysis or paraplegia, the company's head surgeon Dr. Matthew MacDougall said.
- Neuroscientists unaffiliated with the company said the presentation indicated that Neuralink had made great strides but cautioned that longer studies were needed.
- Musk presented what he described as the "three little pigs demo." Gertrude, the pig with a Neuralink implant in the part of its brain that controls the snout, required some coaxing by Musk to appear on camera, but eventually began eating off of a stool and sniffing straw, triggering spikes on a graph tracking the animal's neural activity.
- The company had three pigs with two implants each, and also revealed a pig that previously had an implant. They were "healthy, happy and indistinguishable from a normal pig. Musk said the company predicted a pig's limb movement during a treadmill run at "high accuracy" using implant data.
- Musk described Neuralink's chip, which is roughly 23 millimeters (0.9 inch) in diameter, as "a Fitbit in your skull with tiny wires."
- Small devices that electronically stimulate nerves and brain areas to treat hearing loss and Parkinson's disease have been implanted in humans for decades.
- Brain implant trials have also been conducted with a small number of people who have lost control of bodily functions due to spinal cord injuries or neurological conditions like strokes.
- Startups such as Kernel, Paradromics and NeuroPace also are trying to exploit advancements in material, wireless and signaling technology to create devices similar to Neuralink.