Everything we know about Elon Musk’s brain chipDecember 9, 2022 2023-09-18 21:15
Everything we know about Elon Musk’s brain chip
Everything we know about Elon Musk’s brain chip
Always surrounded by controversy, in the last 2 weeks Elon Musk and his company Neuralink, founded in 2016 and specializing in the development of implantable brain-computer interfaces, also known as Brain-Machine Interfaces or BMI, have not stopped making news.
To better understand the subject, let’s go further on Musk’s project.
After his appearance at the end of November 2022, at the company’s Show and Tell Event, Musk revealed that in 6 months tests could be carried out implanting the chip, Link, in human brains.
The process, Musk said, is advanced in terms of the necessary permits from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which authorizes all types of medical devices on the market, including brain devices.
The site ING explains: “Until now, the FDA has been concerned about possible overheating of the implant – which includes microwires in brain tissue – that could result in chemicals leaking from the implant into the brain mass, Musk clarified in the question and answer session.
The function of the implant will be to “read” brain activity in order to transmit orders that help restore some severely damaged brain functions after a heart attack or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which results in serious damage to communication skills.
Musk showed a video where a monkey with one of these implants is seen, and that apparently is capable of moving a cursor on a screen towards some letters. “He is moving the cursor with his mind”, Musk said. “Not that he can write, I don’t want to exaggerate”.
On the other hand, associations in defense of animals ask to investigate the Neuralink Corporation and its mistreatment practices in laboratory animals.
According to the article published in Reuters: Musk’s Neuralink faces federal probe, employee backlash over animal tests.
“The investigation has come at a time of growing employee dissent about Neuralink’s animal testing, including complaints that pressure from CEO Musk to accelerate development has resulted in botched experiments, according to a Reuters review of dozens of Neuralink documents and interviews with more than 20 current and former employees. Such failed tests have had to be repeated, increasing the number of animals being tested and killed, the employees say. The company documents include previously unreported messages, audio recordings, emails, presentations, and reports!
All about Neurallink?
On its website, the company describes itself as “a team of exceptionally talented people. We are creating the future of brain-computer interfaces: building devices now that have the potential to help people with paralysis and inventing new technologies that could expand our abilities, our community, and our world”.
For this purpose, the company is working on The Link. “A wireless implant based on a chip housed in a casing about the size of a quarter, designed to be implanted into the skull, where it interfaces directly with the human brain via a series of tiny wires. Each of these wires (which are the width of a few red blood cells) carries a complement of 16 electrodes and is capable of both tracking the signals sent out by the brain and stimulating them.
On the Neuralink website, they explain that the work of neural stimulation is almost as old as the knowledge of electricity itself. “ When small currents are delivered through an electrode, the changing electric field drives nearby neurons to fire one or more action potentials. By stimulating specific temporal sequences across many electrodes, it is possible to create patterns of activity that elicit the desired sensation, for example, the feel of an object in the hand or a visual image. Stimulation can also reduce or eliminate the pathological patterns of activity that occur in neurological disorders, such as reducing movement deficits in Parkinson’s disease”.
In the following video you can see how the Neuralink app will work:
How does the link work?
The site www.theteslaspace.com explains: “Once it’s in there, the Neuralink can read the neural impulses in your brain. Every action you take begins with a neuron firing in your head. Having a computer wired into your brain opens up a whole world of possibilities, like controlling any technology using just your thoughts alone, no need for a keyboard, mouse, or touchscreen, just mind power. They’ve already shown a proof of concept of this idea by implanting two devices into the skull of a monkey and teaching him how to play the video game Pong with only his mind. But the aspect we really want to drill down into today is how we can radically change how people communicate. How we might be able to replace speech and maybe even to write with a literal neural link between humans”.
The difference between Neuralink and deep brain stimulation
In an article on the specialized site Medipol, they refer to “the difference between Neuralink and deep brain stimulation, Dr. Zirh continued his words as follows: Neuralink is placed directly in the subcutaneous in the skull and stimulates the surface of the brain with many thin electrodes. However, the deep brain stimulation we use today consists of two electrodes placed in the deep regions of the brain, extension cables connecting these electrodes to the main battery device, and electronic devices consisting of the body of the battery itself. The electrode part is placed in the brain and connected to the battery placed in the subcutaneous above the rib cage with the help of extension cables. The entire operation is performed under local anesthesia and the patients are awake, just like in Neuralink technology. However, in the system currently in use, patients are only put to sleep at the last stage of the operation so that they do not feel pain while the body of the battery is placed in the subcutaneous in the chest. Another difference is that the Neuralink technology device is charged every 24 hours. The deep brain stimulation used and charged today requires charging every 1-2 weeks and the battery life is around 20-25 years.
The challenges of making a scalable BCI
On the same website of the company we can find what are its biggest challenges so far: “Neuralink’s technology builds on decades of BCI research in academic labs, some of which is currently being tested in ongoing clinical studies. The BCI systems used in these aforementioned studies have no more than a few hundred electrodes with connectors that pass through the skin. Their use also requires laboratory equipment and personnel to be present. Our challenge is to build a safe and effective BCI that is wireless and fully implanted, scales up the number of electrodes removes the need for external equipment (other than the device being controlled), and that users can take anywhere and operate by themselves. Recent engineering advances in the field and new technologies developed at Neuralink are paving the way for progress on each of these key technical hurdles”.
To learn more about this Elon Musk project and its impact on humanity, we invite you to learn more with the following readings: