Musk: Neuralink Ready for Human Testing in Six Months
Neuroscience company also showcases ‘telepathic typing’ in monkey with brain device, other capabilities, in live-streamed update
By Daniela Hernandez
Updated Dec. 1, 2022
Elon Musk’s startup Neuralink Corp. should be ready to test its technology on humans in six months, the entrepreneur said Wednesday during a live-streamed update about progress the company has made with its brain-implant technology.
Neuralink has submitted most of its paperwork to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which oversees medical devices, including neural implants, Mr. Musk said. In 2019, he said the company planned to seek the FDA’s approval for human testing and predicted it could begin as soon as 2020.
“We are now confident that the Neuralink device is ready for humans, so timing is a function of working through the FDA approval process,” Mr. Musk said in a tweet during the event.
During a question-and-answer session, the company said it was working to address concerns from the FDA regarding overheating of the device and also toxic chemicals seeping into the brain from the implant, both of which could cause damage.
Mr. Musk said the implants are compact and that he would feel comfortable getting one now. He teased the possibility that he will eventually have an implant for a future demonstration.
“I could have a Neuralink device implanted right now and you wouldn’t even know, hypothetically,” he said.
The company wants to be able to help restore vision and enable people with severe disabilities to move and communicate by decoding brain activity. Eventually, Neuralink wants to open clinics where patients could get a device implanted into their brains by their surgical robots, which the company also showcased at the Wednesday event. The robot surgeon threads Neuralink’s tiny proprietary electrodes, or brain-signal recording wires, into the brain.
Mr. Musk showed a video of “telepathic typing” from a monkey that has a Neuralink brain implant. The animal wasn’t typing into a keyboard but was able to move a cursor to images of letters.
“He’s moving the cursor with his mind,” he said. “He can’t actually spell. I don’t want to oversell this thing.”
Neuralink has been testing its implant technology on nonhuman primates for several years, including in April 2021, when the company released a video showing that a monkey implanted with two Neuralink devices could play a videogame called Pong as the device translated its brain activity into commands with the help of machine-learning software.
This article appeared first at The Wall Street Journal.com on Dec 1, 2022.