Neuralink is looking for volunteers for the first human trial of its brain implant

Neuralink is looking for volunteers for the first human trial of its brain implant


20 September 2023

After receiving FDA approval for human trials a few months ago, Neuralink is now recruiting for its initial test participants. The Elon Musk-owned company's six-year initial study, dubbed "the PRIME Study," aims to evaluate Neuralink technology, which enables paralyzed people to control gadgets. A "consistent and reliable caregiver" is required for participants in the study if they have quadriplegia brought on by ALS or a vertical spinal cord injury, are older than 22 years old, and meet other eligibility requirements.

The PRIME Study is designed to investigate three topics at once, despite the fact that its name, Precise Robotically Implanted Brain-Computer Interface, is illogical. The first is Neuralink's brain-computer implant, the N1. The R1 robot, a surgical robot that actually implants the gadget, is the second. The third is the N1 User App, a piece of software that communicates with the N1 and converts brain activity into commands for the computer. According to Neuralink, it intends to examine the effectiveness and safety of each of the system's three components.

This is not the all-encompassing brain computer that Elon Musk has been describing for years, to be clear. The device Neuralink hopes to test is in no way comparable to Musk's lofty claims about the possibilities for telepathy and using Neuralink to help humans stay up with AI.

Implants that enable patients with paralysis to operate computers and other gadgets have long been tested by researchers.For instance, two recently released research suggested that brain-to-computer interfaces would enable ALS sufferers to interact by typing on a computer. The study is nevertheless a significant milestone for Neuralink, which was approved by the FDA in May after being denied by the organization in early 2022.

Additionally, Neuralink has attracted controversy over the years due to both Musk's excessive promises and the business' internal procedures. One such concern is the way in which it treats monkeys during testing. Musk previously claimed that only "terminal monkeys" were used for testing and that no monkey ever died as a result of a Neuralink implant, although authorities have uncovered numerous issues with the company's treatment of animals. The business is also being looked into for smuggling pathogen-tainted equipment taken from monkeys.

Prior to enrolling in the PRIME Study, participants must complete an 18-month study that includes nine meetings with researchers. Following that, they will conduct brain-computer interface study sessions for at least two hours each week for the following five years, making a total of 20 visits. Neuralink does not specify the number of participants it is seeking or the start date of the study, but it does state that it solely intends to cover "study-related costs," such as travel to and from the study site. (It's also unclear where that place is.The sole approval Neuralink mentions is from "our first hospital site.")

It can be challenging to distinguish between Neuralink's promises and its goals, as is the case with many other aspects of the organization, making it difficult to predict exactly when and what will result from the PRIME Study. But it seems like we'll soon get to see for the first time what happens when you allow Elon Musk completely take over your mind.

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