Musk’s ‘brain chip’ could be tested on humans in 6 months
Billionaire Elon Musk has said that a wireless ‘brain chip’ developed by his company Neuralink could begin human clinical trials in six months.
On Wednesday, Musk said that the company was developing brain chip interfaces that could allow disabled patients to move and communicate again, as well as restore vision.
‘We want to be extremely careful and certain that it will work well before putting a device into a human,’ Musk said during a much-awaited public update on the device.
Speaking to a crowd of select invitees in a presentation at Neuralink headquarters that lasted nearly three hours, Musk emphasized the speed at which the company is developing its device.
‘The progress at first, particularly as it applies to humans, will seem perhaps agonizingly slow, but we are doing all of the things to bring it to scale in parallel,’ he added. ‘So, in theory, progress should be exponential.’
The Neuralink device will first target restoring vision and enabling movement of muscles in people who cannot do so, Musk said.
‘Even if someone has never had vision, ever, like they were born blind, we believe we can still restore vision,’ he said.
Most recently, Neuralink has been conducting tests on animals as it seeks approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin clinical trials in people.
At Neuralink’s last public presentation, over a year ago, the company unveiled a monkey with a brain chip that played a computer game by thinking alone.
Wednesday’s event was originally planned for 31 October but Musk postponed it just days before without giving a reason.
Musk, who also runs electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla, rocket firm SpaceX, and social media platform Twitter, is known for lofty goals such as colonizing Mars and saving humanity. His ambitions for Neuralink, which he launched in 2016, are of the same grand scale.
He wants to develop a chip that would allow the brain to control complex electronic devices and eventually allow people with paralysis to regain motor function and treat brain diseases such as Parkinson’s, dementia and Alzheimer’s. He also wants to meld the brain with artificial intelligence.
Musk is known to overpromise and Neuralink has missed earlier timelines set by him.
In 2019, the world’s richest man said that he was aiming to receive regulatory approval by the end of 2020. He then said at a conference in late 2021 that he hoped to start human trials this year.
Neuralink has repeatedly missed internal deadlines to gain FDA approval to start human trials, current and former employees have said.
Neuralink’s competitor, Synchron, has already implanted a brain chip in a patient in the United States for the first time. It received U.S. regulatory clearance for human trials in 2021 and has completed studies in four people in Australia.
MORE : Animal rights group accuses Neuralink of ‘mutilating’ monkeys’ brains
MORE : Cyborg eye implant could one day restore sight by linking directly to the brain