Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, the founder of Neuralink, revealed that the inaugural human recipient of a brain-chip implant from the startup underwent the procedure on Sunday and is currently in good recovery. Neuralink obtained approval from the US Food and Drug Administration last year to initiate its first human trial for testing the implant. The startup has also secured clearance from the independent institutional review board, as stated on Neuralink’s official website.
Taking to social media, X, Musk posted, “The first human received an implant from @Neuralink yesterday and is recovering well. Initial results show promising neuron spike detection.”
Aim of the study
The PRIME Study, an investigational medical device trial focusing on the Precise Robotically Implanted Brain-Computer Interface (BCI), seeks to evaluate the safety of the N1 implant and R1 surgical robot. The trial aims to assess the initial functionality of the fully-implantable, wireless BCI designed to empower individuals with paralysis to control external devices through their thoughts, as per information available on the company’s website.
In the course of the study, the R1 Robot will be utilized to surgically position the ultra-fine and flexible threads of the N1 Implant in a brain region responsible for movement intention. Once in position, the cosmetically invisible N1 Implant is intended to wirelessly record and transmit brain signals to an app, decoding movement intention. The primary objective of the BCI is to provide individuals with the capability to control a computer cursor or keyboard solely through their thoughts.
Criticism for trial of ‘brain chips’ on lab animals
The PRIME Study is being conducted under the Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) awarded by the FDA in May 2023. It represents an important step in its mission to create a generalised brain interface to restore autonomy to those with unmet medical needs. Musk and his company have already faced massive criticism for the trial of “brain chips” on lab animals. In February 2022, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine submitted a complaint alleging that Neuralink did “invasive and deadly brain experiments.”
In December 2022, federal authorities initiated an investigation into the company over potential breaches of animal welfare standards. Documents revealed that, since 2018, the company had allegedly euthanized approximately 1,500 animals, spanning rats, monkeys, pigs, and mice. In response to these grave allegations, Neuralink countered, asserting that the rhesus macaque monkeys in their care were treated with utmost respect and honour by the team.