Neuralink has been the “secret project” of Elon Musk, who worked to develop brain-machine interfaces for many years. Anything that a priori still promises a great deal and does not appear to have lowered the bar. They intend to sew threads around the brain’s surface so that they can interact with the brain directly from outside. A miniature kind of tubes, cameras, and electrodes.
Yes, you read that right, sew threads. They have a “sewing machine” which, of course, already does it in animals. As they explained, the experiments they’ve carried out in laboratories of up to 1,500 electrodes so far come from mice. They claim it can even be extrapolated to humans, but there has been no research yet to confirm it. The computer will insert six cables (192 electrodes) per minute. Everything without damaging the blood vessels.
Threads that will connect your brain to a computer
The fibers Neuralink aims to insert into the brain are small in diameter, as they demonstrate, between 4 μm and 6 μm. To bring this scale into context, human hair has a diameter ranging from around 15 μm to 100 μm. Such threads are versatile, and are less likely to damage the brain, as they suggest than the fabrics commonly used. In conventional implants, the term “flexible” is the secret that will displace these fibers, much as the brain inside the skull does.
On the other hand, because they are a vast number of wires and a few electrodes or sensors as it is called today, they can still relay even more information.
All the information the threads gather is sent to a computer positioned next to the head presumably above the ear. This system gathers all the information subsequently transmitted to a computer or to some other external entity responsible for processing the data, taking action, or whatever is convenient. It does so by a simple USB-C at the moment, but they’ll also build a wireless system.
A link between the brain and AI
The aim is to be able to decipher the brain’s synaptic peaks and create a “fusion with artificial intelligence,” which is not the first time Musk has said this. The CEO claims that stopping artificial intelligence from overtaking human intelligence is unlikely, and he wants us to have at least “a symbiosis with artificial intelligence.” Why not extract information from the brain only by talking? Since no method is as fast and transmits as much information as the brain-connected threads, it is a question of “bandwidth” as they have explained.
Indeed, technologies already exist that enable electrodes to be attached to the brain to interpret human and other animal brain function. To this end, however, no existing technology achieves Neuralink’s goals of reading the neuronal peaks directly in a minimally invasive way.
The first implants are expected to be done this year
At the end of the year, 2019 Neuralink finished the final process of testing. We claim the system of such fine threads and barely human tension is capable of implanting all the threads into the cranial tissue in a much less dangerous way than other methods. The first research will be carried out at Stanford University with neuroscientists, and Elon Musk said they wanted “to see this in a human patient by the end of this year.”
It won’t be straightforward, they cautioned during the presentation themselves that the biggest reason they’ve got to demonstrate the progress in the science is nothing but recruiting. Max Hodak, Neuralink’s chairman, commented he wasn’t sure until Elon Musk told him that this technology was a good idea.
Despite promises that tests will be done on humans and the first patient by 2020, there’s still a long way to go. As they admitted, they would need US regulators’ permits to be able to carry out clinical experiments. So if everything goes according to plan, and the technologies can be extrapolated successfully to the human brain, perhaps we can see the advancements that they expect.
As we know, the events regarding COVID-19 have affected both entertainment events and scientific developments. However, we have already witnessed that this did not stop Elon Musk with the SpaceX launches, perhaps the Neuralink tests are not stopped due to this.