Neuralink is a company founded by Elon Musk in 2016 with the aim of developing technologies that allow the human brain to be directly connected to a computer and other digital equipment. The idea behind the project is to create abrain-machine interface (BCI, Brain-Computer Interface) advanced to improve human cognitive abilities, treat neurological disorders and enable deeper integration between the brain and technology.
In May 2023, Neuralink received the “green light” from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) US, government body that deals with the regulation of food and pharmaceutical products, to carry out the first human testing.
The latest news, announced in September 2023, is that Musk’s company has obtained a new authorization. This time, Neuralink can begin “recruiting” people to use for its human clinical trial.
What is the PRIME study: Neuralink implants a device in the human brain
The initiative, called “PRIME Study” (PRIME is an acronym for Precise Robotically Implanted Brain-Computer Interface), involves the use of a robot called R1 to implant in the human brain a device (N1) composed of a set of ultra-thin filaments and flexible.
The N1 device is located in an area of the brain responsible for controlling emotions movement intentions. Once inserted, according to what the Neuralink managers explain, the device is practically invisible externally and is designed to record and transmit brain signals wirelessly to an application that interprets them. The objective of the BCI developed by Neuralink is to allow people suffering from pathologies that prevent any type of movement, to control a pointera cursor or a keyboard using only thought.
Specifically, Neuralink explains that the subjects identified for the test are those who are affected by quadriplegia (paralysis of all four limbs) caused by cervical spinal cord injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Thanks to Neuralink’s N1 device, people who undergo the operation have the opportunity to restore a certain independence and, above all, enjoy new and more effective possibilities for communication and interaction with other people and with machines.
How the Neuralink N1 device works
In the brochure that accompanies the registration form for participation in the tests, Neuralink provides more information on the device N1 and on the application connected to it.
First of all, N1 records neural activity through 1024 electrodes distributed over 64 strands, each thinner than a human hair. Once implanted, it records and transmits brain activity with the aim of allowing control of a computer just by “thinking” about interaction methods.
The study will last 6 years and provides regular follow-up at Neuralink designated clinics to monitor your progress and ensure that the BCI interface is working as intended. Musk’s company takes care of all the costs related to the tests, for example the travel expenses for the transfer to and from the structures where the system is carried out and subsequent periodic checks are carried out.
The use of the Neuralink N1 device is incompatible with pacemakers, deep brain stimulators (DBS) and other devices already implanted, with patients who have suffered from epileptic seizures in the past, with all those subjects who are receiving transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) treatments ) or who need to undergo MRI scans for an ongoing medical condition.
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