Elon Musk’s Neuralink has announced that its brain implant is ready for human clinical trials — it just needs a volunteer.
The company told Bloomberg that the ideal guinea pig for its device would be a quadriplegic between the ages of 22 and 40. That individual would undergo a revolutionary surgery that would see a portion of the skull removed and replaced with a quarter-sized computer. A series of electrode-laced threads would also be inserted to link the device to the brain’s premotor cortex.
Apart from the opening of the skull, the surgery would have to be done by Neuralink’s custom-built 7-foot-tall surgical robot because the threads are roughly 14 times more narrow than a strand of hair.
According to Neuralink, the implantation would allow the device to transmit data from the area of the brain responsible for controlling the muscles of the hands, wrists, and forearms. The aim would be to eventually translate these readings into a recognizable and actionable code for a computer.
While it might sound like something straight out of a sci-fi movie, research from Acumen Research and Consulting found that the brain-computer interface market is taking off. Buttressed not only by Neuralink but also Emotiv and NeuroSky, the industry is expected to soar from an already promising $1.9 billion in 2022 to $8.9 billion in 2032.
For individuals with serious neurological conditions, these devices could mean a significant improvement in their quality of life.
As Musk teased in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, in September, “The first human patient will soon receive a Neuralink device. This ultimately has the potential to restore full body movement. … Imagine if Stephen Hawking had had this.”
Musk also suggested that his company’s work could help mitigate the purported civilizational risk posed by artificial intelligence by improving the interchanging of information between humans and AI. The tech titan is one of many within the industry pushing governments to develop regulations to reduce any harm AI might cause to humanity, as covered previously in The Dallas Express.
Meanwhile, non-invasive counterparts to the brain device might eventually offer consumers enhanced gaming experiences and more.
“[T]he long-term goal is to have this available for billions of people and unlock human potential and go beyond our biological capabilities,” DJ Seo, Neuralink co-founder and vice president for engineering, told Bloomberg.
Seo suggested that the endeavor is ready to move to human trials, with Neuralink having already performed hundreds of brain implant surgeries on sheep, pigs, and monkeys since 2021. These prior procedures’ success secured FDA approval for the next phase.
While the surgery itself to outfit a person with a brain computer will take only about 25 minutes, the clinical trial will stretch across six years, complete with regular participant follow-ups. The first 11 volunteers are expected to be implanted with the device next year, followed by 27 in 2025 and 79 in 2026. From then on, the number of implantations is anticipated to grow significantly.
Thousands of individuals have already expressed interest in participating in the trials, according to Neuralink.