The American company Neuralink, owned by billionaire Elon Musk, has begun recruiting volunteers to test a therapeutic device of the same name. Neuralink is a microchip that is implanted directly into the brain. Research may include people who are paralyzed due to injury or neurological disease. If the tests are successful, they will be able to move again.
The Neuralink microcomputer is about the size of a coin. It contains more than 3,000 electrodes, connects to the brain with wires, each 10 times thinner than a human hair, and can control about a thousand neurons.
The US Food and Drug Agency (FDA) approved the Neuralink trial in May. Volunteers who are completely paralyzed are invited to participate in the program. Once they receive the microcomputer, they will have to be supervised for six years. After this, it will be possible to draw conclusions about the effectiveness and safety of the technology. If successful, the technology may be approved for mass use.
Previously, Musk’s company demonstrated the results of implanting Neuralink into the brains of experimental animals: pigs and monkeys. In the pig, the chip controlled the nerves responsible for leg movements and sensitivity of the snout. He allowed the monkey to play video games “with the power of thought.”
Elon Musk himself sees broad prospects for the use of neurochips. In his opinion, in this way it will be possible to cure many diseases: from blindness to alcohol addiction. Also, he believes, there are non-medical applications for chips: Neuralink will be able to communicate with an application on a smartphone, allow a person to drive a “smart” car without touching the steering wheel, access the Internet or play computer games directly from their head.
Critics of the program point out that any foreign body in the brain is a risk of infection and inflammation. In addition, the consequences if the microcomputer breaks are unknown. In addition, during the development of the chip, Neuralink has already had to repeatedly report for the death of experimental animals during testing.