Elon Musk has always thought of unusual things and recently proposed a safe and safe solution for chip implants in the brain. The ultimate goal is to enable the brain to connect to computers, the Internet – too fictional, but it can be applied in medicine first.
Neuralink is a company invested by Musk to $ 100 million and on Tuesday, the company said it has begun the first steps towards the above goal. Neuralink describes a sewing machine-like robot that can sew tiny micro threads into the brain. The company hopes to start testing on humans as early as the second quarter of next year.
According to Neuralink, the implant system will be able to read and write a variety of brain information. However, like many of Musk's other venture projects such as spaceships or high-speed tunnels, this project poses great challenges for scientists to be able to realize Musk's vision. Elon Musk dared to think about it, many things he announced when he was impractical at least for this era, such as he once said "Want to die on Mars".
In terms of the Neuralink project, a device will be inserted into the brain, creating communication between people and machines and making this communication faster than ever. This only appears in movies or fiction. For example, in William Gibson's novel Neuromancer in 1984, he came up with the idea of a device called microsoft – like a small tape that connects directly to the brain via a socket and can be provided to ants. instant consciousness, such as a new language.
Neuralink executives said they knew the road ahead very long before being able to commercialize such a service or product. However, they are ready to exchange public information about their work. Max Hodak – chairman of Neuralink and also one of the founders of the company said he wanted to step into the light, relieved of the burdens of having to hide the research of Neuralink from which to build and implement The most common thing such as publishing research materials. Musk is still actively supporting Neuralink to address technical challenges, shared project manager Shivon Zilis. Neuralink has so far received $ 158 million in investment and 90 employees.
Although something like Musk's brain communication is still far away, he thinks that this technology could be applied in the immediate future. Hodak shared that Musk is optimistic because Neuralink's technology will one day help people cope with some diseases such as regaining motor skills or the ability to speak, see and hear.
Neuralink said doctors will have to drill holes through the skull to implant only, but in the future, they hope to be able to use laser beams to create tiny holes through the skull. Hodak said: "One of the major obstacles is a mechanical drill that will vibrate the skull, causing pain while you will not feel anything with a laser drill."
Neuralink also has plans to cooperate with neurosurgeons at Stanford University and many other research institutes to carry out early experiments. Neuralink is getting advice from Jaimie Henderson – professor of neurosurgery at Stanford, an expert in the treatment of epilepsy with a treatment called deep brain stimulation.
Robot laser sewing machine of Neuralink.
At Neuralink's lab, the company demonstrated a brain-connected system with a lab mouse and could read information from 1500 electrodes – 15 times better than implant electrode systems. present and sufficient for human use in scientific or medical studies.
Independent scientists have warned that the results from experiments on animals do not reflect the same thing on humans and whether the technology is promising will require practical tests. Currently, most animal research data comes from the Belgian company Imec with Neuropixels technology. This technology can collect data from thousands of separated brain cells at the same time.
Electrodes implanted in the brain of Neuralink.
Neuralink meanwhile possesses a very unique technique of placing flexible threads with electrodes attached to neurons in the brain. This system is capable of gathering information from a large number of cells then transmitting wirelessly to a computer for later analysis, thereby improving our basic understanding of the brain.
The threads are positioned correctly by ultra-thin needles and a computerized imaging system to avoid touching the blood vessels on the surface of the brain. The technique used by Neuralink will place such a bundle of thread into the brain with each thread having a diameter of only 1/4 of a human hair.
In fact, these threads are made up of several layers of material like cellophane that helps isolate wires and mounted electrodes or sensors. They can be inserted into many locations, different depths on the brain depending on the need for experiment or application, for example, they can be implanted into functional brain regions such as speech, vision, and hearing. or advocate for medical experiments and therapy research.
Terry Sejnowski, a professor from the Salk Biological Research Institute in La Jolla, California, said that the flexibility of Neuralink's technology thread will be a great advantage. However, he said that researchers at Neuralink still need to prove that the fiber isolation capacity will remain in the brain environment for a long time where saline solution can damage plastic.
Neuralink also has certain competitors. During the past decade, the Pentagon has funded many brain science studies as well as developing robotic control systems that can help the brain control prosthetic devices like limbs. Researchers with funds from the Advanced Defense Projects Agency (DARPA) were able to create communications for quadriplegic people who could operate robotic arms independently to perform Basic movements like drinking water. In addition, the Pentagon invested in many other brain reading techniques, typically using light instead of electrodes to retrieve data from the brain.