NeuraLink yesterday pulled back the curtain on the implant it hopes will wirelessly enable the human brain to control machines, reportedly including the robot-assisted implantation system it devised for its “neural lace” sensors, the sensors themselves and a chip designed to clean and amplify brain signals.
The Elon Musk-backed company had previously only described its technology in broad strokes, as “ultra-high-bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers.” During a press conference yesterday, Musk and company officials said they plan to file for FDA approval for human trials next year, according to media reports.
The NeuraLink system uses a series of threadlike sensors – each measuring 4μm to 6μm in diameter, about a quarter of a human hair’s width – packed with electrodes that communicate via an external module. The flexible threads are designed to minimize the damage to brain tissue that stiffer electrodes can cause, but their flexibility also makes them difficult to implant, according to the reports.
To that end NeuraLink designed a robot-assisted system that uses optics to scan brain tissue via four 8mm holes drilled in the skull, placing the wires so as to avoid blood vessels and other critical structures. The current system, demonstrated last night in a rat and, Musk revealed during a Q&A session, also tested in at least one primate, reportedly transmits data via a wired USB-C connection; the goal is for the human prototype to transmit wirelessly.
“We definitely need to address the monkey in the room,” Musk said, according to Bloomberg. “This is a sensitive subject. A monkey has been able to control a computer with its brain.”