(NationalUSNews.com) — On Sunday, January 28, Neuralink was implanted in a human subject for the first time. According to the co-founder of Neuralink, Elon Musk, the patient is recovering well. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only approved human clinical trials for Neuralink in May 2023, which was swiftly followed by an open call from Neuralink for people with quadriplegia to enroll in the trials. Musk has said his goal for this first Neuralink product, called Telepathy, is to translate signals from the brain related to motion to allow the user to move a cursor or produce text.
The device, which is described as a “fully implantable, wireless brain-computer interface” contains a chip as well as electrode arrays of more than 1,000 superthin, flexible conductors threaded into the cerebral cortex by surgical robot. Once in place, those electrodes are designed to register thoughts that are related to motion. In his announcement on the social media platform X about the successful surgery, Musk said that the initial results showed “promising neuron spike detection.” Spike detection refers to differentiating neural action potentials, or spikes, from interference and background noise.
Some scientists believe Neuralink is moving too fast. In 2022, Neuralink came under fire for the animal testing they have been doing for their devices using macaque monkeys after they released a video of a male macaque named Pager apparently successfully using the technology to play the 1972 video game Pong. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which is a US-based non-profit organization that objects to animal testing, sent a 700-page letter to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) requesting an investigation due to what they said were “egregious violations of the Animal Welfare Act.”
Neuralink denied the allegations of animal cruelty but acknowledged that monkeys died as part of its testing process. They also said that the current policy requires that all novel medical devices must be tested on animals before they can be approved for human subjects. Their response also clarified that this is not unique to their company but to all companies creating new medical devices. Neuralink is not even the only business working on computer-brain interface devices. Brooklyn, New York-based company Synchon was the first to receive FDA clearance to test such a device in humans in 2021 and has been actively enrolling and implanting patients in their trial.
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