June 5, 2023
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Neuralink, a company of the American Elon Musk, will be able, for the first time, to test connected brain implants on humans.

It’s a turning point in the small world of neurotechnology that could be a milestone. The start-up Neuralink, one of Elon Musk’s companies, announced on Twitter on Thursday that it had received approval from US health authorities to test its connected brain implants on humans.

“This is an important first step that will one day allow our technology to help many people,” said the Californian company on its Twitter account, adding that “recruitment for clinical trials is not yet open.”

Neuralink designs connected devices to be implanted in the brain to communicate with computers directly through thought.

They must first be used to help people who are paralyzed or suffering from neurological diseases.

The start-up then wants to make these implants safe and reliable enough to be elective (comfort) surgery – people could then pay a few thousand dollars to equip their brains with computer power.

For Elon Musk, these chips must allow humanity to arrive at a “symbiosis with AI”, in his words of 2020, delivered at the company’s annual conference.

“We are now confident that Neuralink’s device is ready for humans, so the timeline depends on the FDA approval process,” he said at the end of November on Twitter, a month after buying the social network.

The FDA did not immediately respond to a request from AFP.

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Other companies are working on controlling computers by thought

The boss of Tesla and SpaceX (space exploration), is accustomed to risky predictions, particularly about the autonomy of Tesla electric cars.

In July 2019, he estimated that Neuralink could perform its first tests on individuals in 2020.

So far, the coin-sized prototypes have been implanted in the skulls of animals. Several monkeys are thus able to “play” video games or “type” words on a screen, simply by following the movement of the cursor on the screen with their eyes.

At the end of November, the start-up also took stock of its latest advances in the design of a robot-surgeon and the development of other implants, to be installed in the spinal cord or the eyes, to restore mobility or vision. .

Other companies are working on controlling computers by thought, such as Synchron, which announced in July 2022 that it had implanted the first brain-machine interface in the United States.

“We are building technology that can directly broadcast the thoughts of people who have lost the ability to move or speak due to illness or injury,” said Thomas Oxley, the founder and boss of this start-up, in a video on his website.

Several patients are testing the implant, which has been inserted into blood vessels, so they can compose emails or go online using their eyes and brain.

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