Elon Musk states that first of all Neuralink will help treat Alzheimer’s disease, paralysis, dementia, and other diseases, and in the future will allow telepathic communication, control of devices, and playing games.
Is Neuralink an innovation? How existing brain implant therapies work and how they might be inferior to Neuralink.
On August 29, 2020,
Elon Musk revealed the second version of Neuralink, the Link chip, the size of a coin. It was successfully implanted into pigs to read brain activity.
During the presentation, Elon Musk compared the project to other current developments that use brain implants to treat diseases – the Utah Array and deep brain stimulation.
Utah Array (BrainGate)
BrainGate is an invasive brain implant system designed to help people who have lost control of their limbs, for example.
It consists of an external decoding device connected to prostheses or other devices and a sensor system implanted in the brain. The sensors are a matrix of microelectrode rigid needles made with Utah Array technology, which was developed in the 1990s.
The Utah Array is considered the industry standard, used by over 500 laboratories in their projects. In 2006, BrainGate published the results of the trials in the journal Nature: the participants were able to control the mouse cursor on the computer screen, read e-mails and switch TV channels.
Despite the success, the scientists were unable to build a viable business model, Ina 2018 publication, BrainGate reported on three clinical trial participants who were able to use the tablet with their minds: read email, write on messengers, listen to music, and share videos. They successfully used the Internet, checked the weather, and shopped online. One participant played a passage from Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” on a digital piano.
In February 2020, Elon Musk on Twitter compared
the Utah Array to a “medieval torture device,” admitting that although researchers are already using the technology on humans, it’s not hard to make it better.
At a Neuralink presentation in August, the entrepreneur again compared his project to the Utah Array and cited several problems with the old technology:
“There can be no more than 100 channels (electrons) in an array. Needles are implanted into the brain en masse – sometimes manually with an air hammer since the electrodes do not mechanically enter the nerve tissue. Large boxes and wires stick out of the head, which can cause a risk of infection. The patient needs a medical professional to use it. Neuralink solves these problems,” Musk states.
For example, instead of needles, the startup uses thin polymer filaments with electrodes that are individually connected to the brain using a special “sewing” robot. This makes it easier and safer to insert the implant.
Neuralink has also developed a special chip that handles the data received from the brain – it is placed under the skin and is completely hidden after implantation, unlike existing developments based on the Utah Array.
In an April 2022 TED interview,
Elon Musk talked about Neurolink in simpler terms
We take out a small section of the skull and replace it with a device like a Fitbit or an Apple Watch or something like a smartwatch. But with wires that you can’t see so, you don’t damage the brain when you implant it. Neuralink has applied to the FDA to aspirate the first human implant in 2022. The first implants will be used to treat various neurological injuries. We will be dealing with brain and spinal cord injuries for years to come. Probably within a decade.
“I think we will solve a wide range of problems associated with brain injuries, including severe depression, morbid obesity, sleep, potentially schizophrenia, many things that cause people a lot of stress. Restoring memory in older people. ” Said Elon Musk.