Neuralink: Telepathy chips or Brain tumors?

In the face of advancing technology and the promise of a smaller, more versatile TAH, we find ourselves at the beginning of a new era in cardiac care. The journey may have been long and challenging, but the destination promises improved quality of life and increased mobility for patients grappling with the burdens of heart failure. 

Since its launch in 2016, Elon Musk’s neurotech startup Neuralink has been making rapid progress in the industry. In 2019, they already developed brain-chips with wires thinner than hair, and implanted them in living mice and pigs. In 2020, Neuralink received FDA clearance on their first-in-human clinical study, and today, they’ve successfully implanted a chip into their first human brain. 

Image of a Neuralink chip’s electrodes connected to a mouse brain. 

What sets Neuralink apart from its competitors is that their chips are wireless. Previous studies by brain machine interface researchers, no matter how impressive their feats were, required wires and electrodes to transfer electric signals from the brain into machines. For example, in 2018, Dr. Nuyujukian and a group of researchers developed a device that enabled paralyzed test subjects to control a tablet with their brains, which they could use to browse the internet or play music and games, but the devices had to be connected to the patients with electrodes. Neuralink’s N1 chips, however, can wirelessly send as much information as 2000 electrodes can.

Image of paralyzed test subject browsing internet with device.

Despite these breakthroughs, many people are concerned about the safety of Neuralink’s chips, as they involve implanting electrodes directly into brains. Following Neuralink’s first human brain chip implant, Elon Musk tweeted that their patient is “recovering well” and showing “promising neuron spike detection”, but there’s a long way ahead for safe transplants. In September 2023, UC Davis veterinary records revealed that several monkeys had to be euthanized after receiving Neuralink implants. In some cases, the Neuralink chips caused bleeding and damage in brains after being implanted. Necropsy report of a monkey named “Animal 15”, whose cerebral cortex was “focally tattered”. 

Although Neuralink has made some impressive breakthroughs, there are many concerns about the safety of brain implant chips. For Neuralink, their first human patient will prove whether their technology is ready or not.

Work Citation

Elon Musk interview:

Elon Musk and Neuralink paper: %2C%20we,array%20distributed%20across%2096%20threads. 

2018 experiment paper (Dr. Nuyujukian):

Neuralink internet news: uralink-brain-chip 

UC Davis veterinary records:

By. Timothy Han