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Home / Technology / Elon Musk wants to put a computer chip in your brain. How could that be?

Elon Musk wants to put a computer chip in your brain. How could that be?



Neuralink, which was founded in 2016, has already tested an early, wired version of this implant in rats (and Musk stated that it has allowed a monkey to control a computer with its brain as well). According to Musk, human trials could begin late next year, although the company has not yet received approval for such a study from the US Food and Drug Administration. (And it should be noted that Musk, who is also the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has made unusual technological claims in the past: For example, he recently said in an interview that it may be feasible to get people to Mars in 4 years . ")

Neuralink's promise to make a device connected to the brain as inconspicuous as a hearing aid ̵

1; things that could be hidden with hair or a hat – is exciting for scientists who have worked on this technology for years

"The general idea and its motivation are just right, in my opinion," said Andrew Schwartz, a professor of neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh and a pioneer in the brain-machine interface.

  Elon Musk Implants to connect the brain to a smartphone
The idea of ​​an interface between brain and machine is not new. Scientists have worked on them for decades and have been implanted and tested in both animals and monkeys as well as humans. There are some FDA-approved deep brain stimulation devices that are designed, among other things, to combat tremors in Parkinson's patients, and several technology companies have developed their own methods for connecting the brain to computers: Facebook, for example, worked on a non-invasive device Send text messages by reflection.
  Neuralink envisions a brain implant that can be wirelessly connected to a small receiver located behind the ear.

However, these efforts are limited to laboratories for a number of reasons: they are expensive, bulky and require training (from both the user and the computer) if it is an implant under the skull, the person equipped with this implant must generally be physically bound to a computer for it to work.

Virginia de Sa, a professor, studies brain computers According to terfaces of the University of California, San Diego, some of Neuralink's ideas sound "very promising," including the use of very fine wires to implant electrodes in the brain – the thinner they are, the less damage they would do to the brain, and hopefully for longer life.

Schwartz sees the potential in Neuralink's design, particularly his plans to miniaturize the components of the implant, to wireless and to improve the electrode technology.

He believes the wireless aspect is critically important, as obtaining FDA approval for such an implant involves a risk assessment and the riskiest part of today's brain-computer interfaces involves a connector passing through the patient's skin is guided to connect the implant to a computer.

"By removing the whole, the technology becomes much safer because it reduces the risk of patient infection.

  A prototype of a neuralink chip.

Max Hodak, president of Neuralink, said during the presentation that the company's plan for its first product is the control of mobile devices and a keyboard or mouse, although he noted that as of now "

It does not sound very fancy, however, as Schwartz has already worked with systems that allow paralyzed patients to pick up objects with a robotic hand and even receive sensory feedback (Musk said Tuesday that Neuralink's device is also in use He would be able to imagine that a person with a severe disability, with a ger., would be able to read brain signals and send feedback t is equipped as the Neuralink described, could one day be much more autonomously.

For example, a paralyzed person would still sit a wheelchair, he said, but maybe they could drive him by thinking instead of using a joystick, and even steer a prosthetic arm, which is also connected to the chair.

"You could possibly do your own laundry." he said.

There's Still Brain Surgery

During his talk, Musk said Neuralink wants to do the operation for the implant of the company in a LASIK way of sitting down, making a machine his thing, and you can leave within a few hours, "all without hospitalization.

He talked about the wires implanted as threads under the skull of a person, a robotic implant that bypassed the blood vessels and a" minimal trauma "

  A Neuralink robot for placing slender electrodes in the brain.

It sounds simpler than the way humans receive implants today When things work now, essentially the skull is cut open, the brain exposed, chips installed, connectors on the skull brought and sewn the head.

The reality, however, is that the implantation of a device under the skull remains a brain operation. Neuralink admits that it still has to drill a hole in the skull.

"It's still an operation, it's still risky," said de Sa. "People can die even in the simplest operations."

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Apart from the risks of medical intervention, there are also safety concerns. Nataliya Kosmina, a postdoctoral fellow at MIT Media Lab, said she was "freaking out" when she saw the part of the presentation in which Neuralink President Max Hodak mentioned that the implant should be controlled with an iPhone app. She pointed out that someone who hacks into such an app could be far more dangerous than, for example, hacking your bank account.

"As much time and effort as we all spend on devices and implants that are accessible, secure and set up, we would need to spend the same amount of time and energy on ethical issues and privacy and security ", she said.

Who will want one?

Neuralink said it is currently working on a brain chip to help with serious illnesses, but Musk wants it eventually to appeal to all types of people. Some experts said that they can not imagine most people calling for Neuralink's brain chip.

"It's really some kind of sci-fi vision that excites some people, but I do not see the market for it," said Andrew Hires, Assistant Professor of Neurobiology at USC. "The technological development would have to go so far beyond what is currently possible with such a device."

Schwartz agreed, saying that while scientists can decipher fairly complex brain signals, such as how we move our hands and fingers, they are just starting to understand how to use violence on objects in the real world or she manipulates.

When it comes to more futuristic applications of technology to things like telepathy, memory improvement, or artificial work intelligence, he said, "we are far from understanding anything like that."


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