Neuralink: Elon Musk’s brain chip firm wins US approval for human study

Elon Musk’s brain-chip company, Neuralink, has announced that it has received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to initiate its first human testing.

The aim of Neuralink is to establish connections between brains and computers in order to assist in the restoration of vision and mobility for individuals. While the company has not yet begun the process of recruiting participants, this recent approval marks a significant milestone.

It is worth noting that a previous attempt by Neuralink to obtain FDA approval was reportedly rejected due to safety concerns, as reported by Reuters in March, citing several current and former employees. The FDA has acknowledged Neuralink’s latest announcement.

Neuralink, a company founded by Elon Musk, aims to utilize its microchips for the treatment of conditions like paralysis and blindness, as well as to assist individuals with disabilities in using computers and mobile technology. These chips, which have undergone testing on monkeys, are designed to interpret brain signals and transmit information to external devices through Bluetooth technology.

While there is potential for Neuralink’s brain implants, experts caution that extensive testing is necessary to address technical and ethical hurdles before they can be widely accessible.

Musk has also expressed the idea that this technology could alleviate concerns regarding human displacement by artificial intelligence (AI).

Announcing Thursday’s news on Twitter, Neuralink talked of an “important first step that will one day allow our technology to help many people”.

The approval was “the result of incredible work by the Neuralink team in close collaboration with the FDA”, it said.

The company has indicated that it will provide more details in the near future regarding its plans to recruit participants for the trials.

On its website, Neuralink emphasizes that safety, accessibility, and reliability are key priorities throughout its engineering process. However, the company, co-founded by Elon Musk in 2016, has been consistently optimistic about the speed of executing its plans, leading to overestimations.

Originally, the goal was to begin implanting chips in human brains in 2020, in line with a commitment made the previous year. Later, the target was shifted to 2022. In December of the previous year, the company faced another setback when it was reportedly under investigation for alleged animal welfare violations, although it had previously denied such claims.

The recent announcement of FDA approval for human tests comes on the heels of a similar advancement by Swiss researchers involving brain implants.

Notably, a paralyzed individual from the Netherlands was able to walk simply by using his thoughts, thanks to a wireless implant system that transmitted his neural signals to his legs and feet.