Musk’s Neuralink starts recruiting volunteers to test brain implants

Firm seeking individuals with mobility diseases for first human clinical trial of technology that aims to use brain to control computers, and one day treat neurological disorders

File: This video grab made from the online Neuralink livestream shows a drawing of the different steps of the implantation of a Neuralink brain implant device seen during a presentation on August 28, 2020. (Neuralink/AFP)
File: This video grab made from the online Neuralink livestream shows a drawing of the different steps of the implantation of a Neuralink brain implant device seen during a presentation on August 28, 2020. (Neuralink/AFP)

Elon Musk’s startup Neuralink said Wednesday it has started recruiting human volunteers to test brain implants that the company hopes will allow the mind to control computers, and one day potentially treat neurological disorders.

“We’re excited to announce that recruitment is open for our first-in-human clinical trial,” the company announced on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “If you have quadriplegia due to cervical spinal cord injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), you may qualify,” it said.

While most players in the field are exclusively concerned with medical uses for neurotechnology, Musk is different.

In May, the company said it received clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its first-in-human clinical study for its technology.

The aim of Neuralink implants is to enable human brains to communicate directly with computers, Musk said during a presentation by the startup in December.

Musk said the company would try to use the implants to restore vision and mobility in humans who had lost such abilities.

File: This video grab made from an online Neuralink livestream shows Elon Musk standing next to a surgical robot during his Neuralink presentation on August 28, 2020. (AFP PHOTO/NEURALINK)

“We would initially enable someone who has almost no ability to operate their muscles… and enable them to operate their phone faster than someone who has working hands,” he said.

“As miraculous as it may sound, we are confident that it is possible to restore full body functionality to someone who has a severed spinal cord,” he said.

Beyond the potential to treat neurological diseases, Musk’s ultimate goal is to ensure that humans are not intellectually overwhelmed by artificial intelligence (AI), he said.

The startup’s activities have not gone ahead without scrutiny from the government and media.

The US Department of Transportation said in February it was investigating the possible illegal transfer of biohazardous materials across state borders by the company, while the Department of Agriculture said it was probing allegations of animal abuse.

According to a Reuters report in December, experimentation has led to the deaths of some 1,500 animals at the hands of the startup.

Former employees labeled surgeries “hack jobs,” according to the report. In one instance, staff inserted the Neuralink implant into the wrong vertebra of pigs and they had to be put down.

In addition to neurological treatments, the maverick tycoon is also touting the possibility of telepathy, using implant technology to store memories or to enable humans to continue their existence without their bodies.

“In the future, you will be able to save and replay memories,” he told a Neuralink event in 2020.

“You could potentially download them into a new body or into a robot body.”

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