Elon Musk Launched Brain Hacking Device LINK V0.9 With Surgical Bot
Elon Musk has made many claims about Neuralink Corp., his brain-machine interface company. On Twitter & on podcasts, the billionaire has touted abilities that sound nothing in need of miraculous: easing depression, helping with obsessive compulsive disorder & treating traumatic brain injuries.
Now, Neuralink, whose work has largely been shrouded in secrecy, give public “progress update” on Friday.
In the run-up to big reveal, Musk has allowed some glimpses at the company’s technology. An early look came a year ago, when the Neuralink team showed off tiny electrodes on thin, flexible probes they said would be ready to penetrate brain tissue with minimal damage, & ultimately help restore brain function to people with traumatic brain injuries. The team has already been placing them in rats & primates.
Will the devices actually be ready to achieve the breakthroughs Musk says they can? Here’s a rundown of what we all know thus far about Musk’s startup—the most up-to-date claims, the technology, & what neuroscientists say is really possible.
Claim: Neuralink will soon be ready to implant its technology in humans
On May 7, Musk appeared on the podcast, the Joe Rogan Experience, & made a particular claim about Neuralink: The startup would “be ready to implant a neural link in but a year in a person, I think.”
The prediction isn’t actually as groundbreaking because it might sound. Musk was describing a procedure that happens fairly routinely to treat conditions like epilepsy & Parkinson’s, despite potentially fatal risks like brain hemorrhages.
Justin Sanchez, who helped fund research done by Neuralink scientists when he ran the biological technologies office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, estimates that about 200,000 people globally have some kind of neurotechnology implanted in their brain. In fact, the technology is so well developed at now that the Battelle Memorial Institute, where Sanchez may be a fellow, has developed a neurotechnology-based non-implanted device aimed toward nothing more grandiose than helping people improve their golf swings.
The other important element of Musk’s statement was that Neuralink is on tarck for human trials by next year. to check so quickly in humans, the corporate would wish to urge an exemption from the traditional multi-year regulatory process from the Food & Drug Administration. which will be possible—other brain implants have received exemptions. But Neuralink’s device could face additional challenges.
Currently, the corporate uses flexible polymers, which are unlikely to last a decade within the human body—the minimum timeframe the FDA likes to ascertain in medical devices that can’t easily be removed. “If you would like to check whether something can last 10 years, you actually need to wait 10 years,” says Matt Angle, Chief Executive of Paradromics Inc., Austin, Texas-based brain-machine interface company.
A report in health news site Stat News in the week detailed internal tensions at Neuralink, citing former employees who said the corporate culture might be chaotic which it quickly cycled through scientific talent. consistent with two anonymous former employees, it had explored possibly by passing the U.S. regulatory process by pursuing human trials in China or Russia.
Claim: Neuralink devices are going to be ready to treat addiction & depression
On July 10, Musk took to Twitter with another notable statement. A Twitter user asked Musk if Neuralink might be wont to retrain the a part of the brain that causes addiction & depression. Musk replied, “For sure. this is often both great & terrifying.”
Neuroscientists agree that placing electrodes within the brain could help mitigate those conditions. In fact, researchers beyond Neuralink are performing on it now, including Alik Widge, a psychiatrist & biomedical engineer at the University of Minnesota. The treatment involves applying electrodes to a spot within the brain called the interior capsule, & works by stimulating connections to the prefrontal cortex to enhance cognitive functions like perception & judgment. About 200 patients worldwide have tried the technique for depression, Widge said.
In several countries opioid addicts have had electrodes implanted into the areas of the brain that control addiction. that has the U.S., where a West Virginia man underwent the procedure late last year at WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute. He has abstained from opioids since, a spokeswoman said. A second opioid patient underwent same surgery earlier this month.
While there are hurdles to wide adoption, there’s no reason Neuralink couldn’t push into these areas within the future. In 2018 review of studies of deep brain stimulation & its effects on depression, scientists said the results “showed promise” but the technique remained experimental. “The psychiatrists I talk with say that they need to saw much stronger efficacy data,” Widge said.
Claim: The startup are going to be ready to mitigate conditions like obsessive compulsive disorder
On July 18, a Twitter user asked if Neuralink could help patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder & if it could stimulate the discharge of oxytocin, serotonin & other chemicals. Musk replied simply, “Yes.”
Programs round the country already do that , so it’s plausible that Neuralink could 1 day achieve same, experts said. However, scientists’ grasp on exactly how the technology works remains evolving. “We just have the understanding of bits & pieces,” said Rachel Davis, Director of OCD & neuromodulation programs at the University of Colorado Anschutz Anschutz Campus, which is functioning on the technology.
Many scientists see big potential here, mainly because existing drugs often come short when it involves OCD & related conditions. “The next big wave for these stimulation technologies goes to be mood,” said Dave Rosa, CEO of NeuroOne Medical Technologies Corp.
Claim: Neuralink could “solve” brain injuries & treat conditions like autism & ALS
On July 18, responding to Musk’s involve job applicants who wanted to assist “solve” brain & spinal injuries, a Twitter user asked if Neuralink could also help disabled people living with injuries, autism & amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. Musk replied it had that potential.
Deep brain stimulation, or treatment via electrodes implanted into the brain, is already used for traumatic brain injuries. Many patients have already undergone the procedure with promising results. Encouraging signs also are emerging that such technologies could help address autism. Implanting electrodes within the brains of autistic people has helped improve symptoms in many cases.
Treating ALS, however, could also be harder . Vikash Gilja, former Neuralink employee who now teaches at the University of California, San Diego & runs a translational neural engineering lab there, says that might be a troublesome disease to combat with brain-machine interfaces, because it affects such broad areas of the brain. “We’re more likely to ascertain pharmaceutical treatments for that,” Gilja said.
Claim: the corporate are going to be ready to stream music directly into people’s brains
On July 19, a Twitter user asked if someone with a Neuralink implant would be ready to stream music “directly from our chips,” calling it a “great feature.” Again, Musk replied with an easy “Yes.”
While it sounds far-fetched, neuroscientists say this feature wouldn’t differ markedly from existing technology. “That’s very technically feasible,” says Angle of Paradromics. “The auditory pathway is extremely well mapped.”
Some in scientific community have watched the company’s promises warily, fearing that they could prompt afflicted people to delay necessary procedures. “One issue that has come up time & time again is that the ethics around creating false hope” around unknown timelines, said Gilja, the UCSD professor & former Neuralink employee. “Creating hope during a patient population are often an honest thing, but it are often a negative if a patient is trying to know whether to urge treated.” they’ll believe a far better solution lies within the near future, when actually it might be years out.
Musk doesn’t claim that Neuralink can do everything. Over the years, he has ignored questions starting from the creepy (such as whether it’ll facilitate head transplants) to the quotidian (such as whether it’ll help with balance). “What will Neuralink do for the culinary arts?” asked one tweeter. Musk’s answer: silence.