Elon Musk’s company Neuralinkdeveloper of the experimental brain-computer interface (BCI) N1, announced on Tuesday that it has finally opened recruitment for its first-in-human study called Precise Robotically Implanted Brain-Computer Interface (PRIME). The announcement comes almost a year after the company’s last event, four months after Musk announced the start of the trial, and almost a month after rival company Synchron already beat them to market.
According to the company’s statement, the PRIME study “aims to evaluate the safety of our implant (N1) and surgical robot (R1), and to evaluate the initial functionality of our BCI, which allows people with disabilities to control external devices with the power of thought.” Essentially, this research is aimed primarily at “those who are quadriplegic from cervical spinal cord injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis,” despite Musk’s repeated and unsubstantiated claims that the technology would be useful for transhumanist applications such as studying kung- fu from an SD card, uploading your consciousness to the Internet and controlling various consumer electronics with the power of thought.
Actually, the latter is the real goal of both the company and the technology. BCIs work as a bridge between the human mind and machines, converting the analog electrical signals of our brains into digital signals that machines can understand. Nueralink’s N1 system uses a high-precision array of hair-thin Utah Array probes that, unlike Synchron’s Stentrode, must be placed by robotic surgery in the keyhole (performed by Nerualink’s R1 robotic surgeon, which looks like a sewing machine). This array will be mounted on the motor cortex of the patient’s brain, where it will register and wirelessly transmit the electrical impulses generated by the brain region to an appropriate application that will interpret them into executable commands for the computer. “The original goal of our BCI is to enable people to control a computer cursor or keyboard using only thoughts,” the press release states.
Neuralink has been working on the N1 system since 2017, being one of the first companies in the industry to publicly develop a commercial BCI. However, Neuralink’s efforts were derailed last year after the company was justifiably accused of causing the senseless suffering and death of dozens of experimental animals, prompting a USDA investigation into animal cruelty charges and prompting the FDA to deny the company speeding up human trials. . The PRIME study is being conducted under the umbrella of the Investigational Device Exemption (IDE), which the FDA granted to Neuralink in May of this year.