Musk's Neuralink Gets OK for Human Trials

FDA greenlights brain implant for testing in humans
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 26, 2023 6:25 AM CDT

Elon Musk's Neuralink says it's received FDA approval to put brain implants in humans for the first time. It "represents an important first step that will one day allow our technology to help many people," says the company. Neuralink hopes its implants will cure conditions from obesity to schizophrenia and enable telepathy, per Reuters. "Even if someone has never had a vision, ever, like they were born blind, we believe we can still restore vision," Musk said at a "show and tell" event in December, where he noted human trials could begin in six months, per Quartz. Neuralink also wants "to surpass able-bodied human performance with our technology," the company tweeted in April, per the Washington Post.

Its wireless-charging devices—made up of flexible threads containing electrodes connected to a coin-sized chip, which conveys data to computers, per Insider—have only been tested on monkeys, sheep, and pigs so far. In one test, a monkey played "MindPong" through the relaying of brain signals to a computer via Bluetooth. But the development has brought numerous animal deaths. Neuralink was denied FDA approval for human trials early last year, with the agency highlighting issues with the device's lithium battery, the potential for movement within the brain, and the problem of extraction without damaging brain tissue, per Reuters. Those issues have apparently been addressed to the FDA's satisfaction.

This means humans could begin sitting for a surgical implantation by a "sewing machine-like robot" that Musk claims takes just 30 minutes and doesn't require anesthesia, per Quartz. But the company says it isn't recruiting for the trials just yet. "We’ll announce more information on this soon!" it adds. Competing companies Synchron and Blackrock Neurotech have already put brain implants in at least 42 people as part of clinicial trials, per Quartz. Synchron's device allows people to send text messages using only their mind. Blackrock Neurotech's MoveAgain system allows patients with paralysis and other neurological disorders to control cursors, mobile devices, wheelchairs, and prosthetics. (More Neuralink stories.)

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