Elon Musk’s brain chip company recently claimed it violated animal welfare laws when testing on monkeys a few years ago. What will the step mean when it happens? Academics like me have conducted clinical trials in people with brain transplants.
Dr. Paul Noujukian is a teacher of bioengineering and neurosurgery. He coordinates the Mind Connecting Research facility at Stanford. For nearly 20 years now, academic research into brain implants has up to this point been done more or less exclusively with wires. The difference of the N1 with Neuralink is this. It’s completely implantable, it’s battery operated, it’s wireless.
This is all being done via the Bluetooth protocol. Let’s dive into the science behind Neuralink to understand how human brain chips actually work. The science behind how these implants work is no different from the way they work. So we try to measure energy from AA batteries. It’s the same principle that we’re doing with these brain implants it’s called neuro-electrophysiological recording.
When you move your hand to the right, certain sets of neurons fire in a certain pattern. By listening to that motion and that pattern, you can predict very quickly which direction the hand is going to move. These are the neurons that direct your are attached to the muscles unless the path from the brain to the spinal cord to the muscles is damaged, as in patients with paralysis.
that pathway is damaged then neuro signals from their brain their signals are not going down to move the muscles but in many cases the signals are still present in the brain they are just not coming out so if you go in And put something in there that listens to those neurons so you know what’s happening in the muscles and that’s the goal of brain implants.
See timeline of brain interface breakthroughs over the years How the brain works has long been a topic of scholarly interest. Therefore, these new developments at Neuralink should be viewed as a culmination of breakthroughs by brain machine interface researchers, especially over the past few decades. It is important to look into the first demonstration of real-time cursor control in monkeys in 2002, for example.
2008 A monkey controlling a robotic arm in three dimensions fed itself 2012 The first brain-controlled robotic arm by a human 2017 A human mentally controlled a cursor to type words and sentences Dr Naujukian 2018 were also part of studies where a human subject mentally controlled a tablet to perform tasks such as browsing the web, sending email, and playing games or music.
This is all done with a few hundred electrodes. But in 2019, a private company, Neuralink, changed the game when it fitted a pig named Gertrude with a wireless implant that monitored the neurons’ wiring around a thousand neurons. There are different types and to solve an electronic problem you need an electronic thing.
It was a very interesting moment because it signaled to the community that they’re serious. They’re investing. They’re building hardware from scratch and they’re putting it into larger animals. For pigs, electrodes were implanted into the somatosensory cortex, which This allowed them to measure sensory activity such as taking a step. You would hear this little pop or click from the audio channel every time that particular neuron was listening to them.
In April of 2021 Neuralink released the so-called Mind Pong video The pager was named This is a rhesus macaque This type of monkey that is used a lot in this field Two N1 devices fitted with Neuralink devices The cursor on the screen Brains control. This is extremely important because here Neuralink is showing off their new hardware. Their new device works in a monkey’s hands.
That’s the level that’s needed to convince the scientific community, to convince the FDA that you’re ready to go into human clinical trials. That’s the evidence the FDA is looking for. N1 device recording in pager. The power was eye-opening due to the sheer number of individual electrodes implanted. There was certainly a lot of clever engineering that went into producing a device that wirelessly broadcasts 2,048 electrode-worth of spiking information, digital ones and minus spikes, over the radio.