Neuralink Brain Implant A step towards “brain-computer interface” technology

Girish Linganna
Elon Musk announced that the first person has received a Neuralink brain implant, which is a significant step forward in the advancement of “brain-computer interface” technology. This technology has the potential to assist individuals with conditions like paralysis to interact with their environment.
In a recent tweet on Monday, Elon Musk shared that the patient who received the Neuralink brain implant is now in a stable condition and recovering smoothly. This indicates that the surgery was a success and no major technical issues were encountered.
Musk did not provide any specific information about the patient. In September of last year, Neuralink mentioned that they were seeking a trial participant who was experiencing quadriplegia.
Quadriplegia is a condition characterized by paralysis or loss of function in all four limbs and the torso. It typically results from a spinal cord injury or neurological disorder. Individuals with quadriplegia often require assistance with daily activities and may experience limited mobility and sensation below the level of injury.
The term “torso” refers to the central part of the human body, which includes the chest, abdomen, and pelvis. It is the region between the neck and the hips, where vital organs such as the heart, lungs, liver, and intestines are located.
Musk also mentioned that the initial findings indicate promising “neuron spike detection.” This suggests that the Neuralink device is able to detect signals from individual neurons within the brain. This advancement has the potential to decode higher-quality brain signals, which is quite exciting. Musk did not disclose the specific number of neurons that the Neuralink device is capable of detecting. Additionally, researchers noted that the company did not provide sufficient safety and efficacy data necessary to assess the success of the implant.
Neurons are special cells in the brain that act as messengers, sending electrical signals to communicate with each other. Through connections called synapses, these signals can pass from one neuron to another, forming a network of communication lines in the brain. This network allows information to be transmitted and processed, enabling us to think, move, and feel. Understanding how neurons function is crucial for scientists to develop new ways to enhance brain health and treat neurological conditions.
The human implantation news has been seen as a groundbreaking advancement that can enhance the lives of individuals with severe disabilities and paralysis. However, it also calls for careful examination and regulation from an ethical standpoint. Following Musk’s announcement, social media was flooded with memes (humorous images, Videos on social media platform) depicting fictional human-robot hybrids. However, it is important to note that the primary purpose of this technology is to assist individuals who have limited movement and functionality. Even for individuals who could benefit from this technology, it is anticipated that it will take several years for the development and availability of this technology.
There are a few other companies in the field of brain-computer interfaces that Neuralink competes with. One of these competitors, Synchron, has created a device similar to a stent that is implanted inside the jugular vien, on the surface of the brain, but not inside the brain tissue itself. Precision Neuroscience, another company in this field, has conducted temporary implantations of its microelectrode array in six patients. This allowed them to collect test data before removing the device. The microelectrode array is incredibly thin, only one-fifth the thickness of a human hair, and is designed to be placed on the surface of the brain.
The jugular vein refers to one of the major blood vessels in the neck, in close proximity with brain , that carries deoxygenated blood from the head and neck back to the heart. It is an essential part of the circulatory system, playing a crucial role in maintaining blood flow and oxygenation throughout the body.
A microelectrode array refers to a small device composed of tiny electrodes that are arranged in a specific pattern. This array is designed to be placed on or near the surface of the brain to detect and record electrical signals from neurons. It allows researchers to study brain activity and can be used in various applications related to neuroscience and brain-computer interfaces.
According to Blackrock Neurotech, they have successfully implanted their previous-generation device in numerous patients. These individuals have reportedly been able to perform activities such as eating, sending emails, and controlling robotic arms using their thoughts. The company claims that these implants have been proven to be safe and effective.
Neuralink, a company established in 2016, was valued at $3.5 billion in its most recent equity financing round in November, as per PitchBook, a data provider.
Neuralink, led by Elon Musk, aims to develop a product called “Telepathy” that would allow individuals to control smartphones or computers using their thoughts. During an interview on X, Musk mentioned this as one of the goals of Neuralink. The company has also released videos showcasing monkeys with implanted devices successfully controlling a cursor and playing the classic video game “Pong.”
Neuralink’s implant consists of a small chip, about the size of a quarter, which is surgically placed in the skull. This chip is connected to numerous thin, threadlike electrodes that are implanted directly into the brain. These electrodes are responsible for transmitting electrical signals generated by the neurons. However, there is still uncertainty about how the brain will react to these implanted threads over an extended period. It is possible that tissue growth around the electrodes could potentially degrade the quality of the captured electrical signals.
According to Jacob Robinson, the founder and CEO of Motif Neurotech, Neuralink’s ability to complete the first surgery within six months of announcing trial recruitment showcases their agility and highlights the demand for their product. Motif Neurotech, a company developing its own brain implant for the treatment of depression, recognizes the significance of Neuralink’s achievement and hopes to contribute to the field of neurotechnology in the future. (IPA)