Human brain chip pending FDA approval, Musk says
Billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk has again teased plans to begin human testing for his company’s brain chip implant, Neuralink, giving another aspirational date after previously claiming human trials would soon begin.
Addressing an event held by the Wall Street Journal earlier this week, Musk said the brain implant, which has been successfully used in animals such as pigs and monkeys, would be ready for real human testing sometime next year.
“Neuralink's working well in monkeys, and we're actually doing just a lot of testing and just confirming that it's very safe and reliable, and the Neuralink device can be removed safely,” he said.
We hope to have this in our first humans – which will be people that have severe spinal-cord injuries like tetraplegics, quadriplegics – next year, pending FDA approval.
In a tweet posted on Tuesday, Musk added that his firm ultimately hopes to patch up “faulty” or “missing” brain neurons with the device, noting that many physical ailments “can be solved just [by] bridging signals between existing neurons.”
“Progress will accelerate when we have devices in humans (hard to have nuanced conversations with monkeys) next year,” he continued.
Replacing faulty/missing neurons with circuits is the right way to think about it. Many problems can be solved just bridging signals between existing neurons.Progress will accelerate when we have devices in humans (hard to have nuanced conversations with monkeys) next year.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 7, 2021
Despite Musk’s comments, he has given several different timeframes for human Neuralink tests in the past, saying in 2019 that they would launch sometime around the end of 2020, a prediction later revised to 2021 as of last February and again to 2022 on Monday.
The businessman said that FDA rules haven’t been a major hurdle, as Neuralink’s own standards for implanting the device are “substantially higher” than what the federal agency requires, suggesting the apparent delays could be on the technical, rather than regulatory, side.
Among the most controversial of Musk’s various projects, the Neuralink implant is meant to be inserted directly into the brain to compensate for neurological or spinal cord injuries resulting in disability, such as paralysis. After unveiling a working model of the device in pigs last year, the chip was successfully tested in a nine-year-old macaque monkey in April, with stunning footage purporting to show the animal playing a game of Pong with its mind only.