How Elon Musk's Brain Implant Might Revolutionize the World

By Shiwani Pradhan, Correspondent, Consultants Review Friday, 02 February 2024

The neurotechnology startup, Neuralink, launched in 2016 has completed the first brain chip implanted in a person. The unidentified patient had a tiny chip implanted beneath their skull, which allowed the processor's microscopic filaments to entwine themselves into their brain. Although there are issues over the invasive nature of the procedure, US regulators accredited Neuralink's human mind implant trials last year. The entrepreneur, who heads rocket venture SpaceX, electric car company Tesla, and social networking platform X, has a record of making bold promises to technology but after years of controversial research, these claims are now being tested by humans on the initiation of studies. Elon Musk stated that he is hopeful about the procedure's early effects, pointing to “promising neuron spike detection”, as evidence.

Now let's take a look at nine ways brain-computer interfaces like Neuralink might revolutionize the lives of millions of people:

Command on Almost Any Device

Although the initial Neuralink patient's name is unknown, individuals with quadriplegia resulting from severe motor neurone disease or spinal injuries were eligible to participate in the clinical study offered by the firm.  According to Musk, Neuralink's first product will be called "Telepathy" on Tuesday. He said that this "enables control of your phone or computer, and through them almost any device, just by thinking." 

Helping Visually Impaired People to see

Elon Musk has stated that another potential application for Neuralink might be to restore sight to persons with compromised eyesight. On Tuesday, he named the system "BlindSight". According to Musk, the implant can stimulate the visual cortex and provide "direct vision to the brain," allowing the patient to see the world in front of them.

Similar accomplishments in clinical trials have already been made by other scientists. In 2021, retired teacher Berna Gómez's visual cortex was implanted with a chip by Miguel Hernández University researchers in Alicante, Spain. The device was then linked to a set of spectacles that included a built-in video camera. She could recognize a few alphabet letters and play a simple game.

Utilizing Touch Screen for Control

An Australian startup called Synchron is developing brain-computer interface technology that may be utilized to operate a contemporary touchscreen. Unlike Neuralink's device, the business has created a stent type that can decode brain impulses; it resembles stents used in cardiovascular treatments. According to Synchron, their technology may "work inside the body to help enable everyday tasks like making an appointment with the doctor, texting a friend, or buying a gift." In contrast to Neuralink, the stent technology shouldn't need to be implanted through a difficult and intrusive procedure.

Playing Games

In an initial showcase of Neuralink's technology, a macaque monkey was directed to use its mind impulses to play the pc game Pong. Using a joystick, the monkey was trained to play the game. Thereafter, the joystick was eliminated, allowing the monkey to suppose about carrying out the game.

Humans have accomplished comparable things. With the use of an intrusive and cumbersome gadget connected to his brain, Matthew Nagle, a Massachusetts man paralyzed by a stabbing, was able to play the same game in 2004.

Some businesses have focused on creating gadgets that allow users to play video games hands-free using medical equipment like electroencephalogram (EEG) scanners. In order to pick up brain impulses, these headsets usually install electrodes on the scalp; a costly and sometimes dangerous procedure is not necessary. 

A start-up company called Cogitat was formed by Imperial College London to create games that help stroke victims recover via mental stimulation alone. Users are encouraged by its "games" to consider holding their hands in an attempt to retrain their bodies to move.

"After a stroke, you can start the process of rewiring your brain just by imagining moving [your hand]," stated Dr. Allan Ponniah, CEO of Cogitat.

Assisting the Handicapped to Walk

In 2021, Elon Musk anticipated that Neuralink would be able to restore full-body functionality that has a spinal cord injury. Despite the fact that Neuralink has not provided any proof to back up this goal, other scientists have achieved significant progress. According to Prof. Tara Spires-Jones, president of the British Neuroscience Association, "scientists have been able to implant brain-spine interfaces which help people with paralysis to walk in recent research trials - not related to Neuralink."

After suffering a paralysis in a bike accident last year, Gert-Jan Oksam, a Dutchman, was able to regain his mobility after receiving a brain implant that wirelessly linked with a second implant in his spine. However, according to Spires-Jones, "invasive neurosurgery" is necessary for this type of brain-interface.

How to Avoid Epilepsy

Musk has also conjectured on the possibility of controlling seizures via brain implants. "If you have severe epilepsy, you could just sort of stop the epilepsy from occurring," he stated in a 2020 podcast, recognize it instantly and respond with a counter pulse. The brain's neurons fire erratically during an epileptic episode, which results in a seizure. Researchers have been investigating whether brain implants may use electrical pulses to completely block these signals, or forecast them so that patients can use medication to avert an impending fit. 

Improving Human Memory

One of Musk's most optimistic (and completely untested) statements is that Neuralink could one day be utilized to improve human memory. In a 2020 video, Musk stated: "You will be able to save and replay memories."

He went on to say, "You could upload everything that was encoded in memory." You could basically save your memories as a backup.” Not every expert was impressed. Dr Adam Rutherford, a genetics lecturer at UCL, described the claims as "absolute god-level cockwaffle".

Ideas that are Telepathic

Additionally, the businessman has conjectured that brain implants may enable thought-only communication between people. "You wouldn't need to talk," he said, addressing podcaster Joe Rogan. Musk is hardly the only one thinking about this. "Implanted cortical interfaces have enabled individuals with paralysis to use brain signals to generate words at a rate approaching that of regular speech," the UK government's Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA) asked in a report. Could these technologies eventually allow for completely new communication modes in healthy people?

Musk acknowledged that it may take some time for such an advancement, though. When asked to provide a timetable, Musk responded, "It won't come as a surprise to you." five to ten years.

AI in Synergy

The most preposterous of Musk's assertions regarding Neuralink is that it would assist avert a possible AI catastrophe by allowing the human brain to be connected to computers and the internet.  According to the billionaire, brain interfaces would enable a "merging with AI" in 2019 and enable people to "achieve symbiosis with artificial intelligence." According to him, this will enable people to have superhuman cognitive capacities comparable to those of cutting-edge AI.

That is a far cry from his more moderate objective of assisting those with severe impairments, and it is unlikely to be accepted by authorities for a human experiment. “Never. I don’t ever give up. I’d have to be dead or completely incapacitated. For my part, I will never give up, and I mean never”, Elon Musk


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