Illustration of Neuralink
Image 1: Illustration of Neuralink

Elon Musk and others co-founded Neuralink Corporation, a neurotechnology business that develops implantable brain-machine interfaces (BMIs). The company’s headquarters are in San Francisco’s Pioneer Building, where it shares offices with OpenAI. Neuralink was first publicly reported in March 2017 after it was launched in 2016. In this article learn about developing implantable brain-machine interfaces known as Neuralink.

Neurosurgeons will use robotics to implant Neuralink into the brain. A link chipset is implanted in the skull during this procedure. It is made up of several insulated wires that are connected to the electrodes used in the process. This device is used to control cellphones and computers without touching them.

Elon Musk, Max Hodak, Ben Rapoport, Dongjin Seo, Paul Merolla, Philip Sabes, Tim Gardner, Tim Hanson, and Vanessa Tolosa founded Neuralink in 2016. Experts in fields such as neuroscience, biology, and robotics make up the group. In January 2017, the trademark “Neuralink” was purchased from its former owners. In April 2017, Neuralink revealed that its short-term goal was to develop devices to treat significant brain illnesses, with the long-term goal of human improvement, sometimes known as transhumanism. Musk stated his interest in the concept arose in part from the science fiction concept of “neural lace” in the imaginary setting of Iain M. Banks’ The Culture series of ten novels.

Musk described the neural lace as a “digital layer above the cortex” that would ideally be implanted by a vein or artery rather than lengthy surgery. He stated that the long-term goal is to develop “symbiosis with artificial intelligence,” which he considers to be an existential threat to humans if left unchecked.

Neuralink will be based in San Francisco’s Mission District by 2020, sharing the Pioneer building with OpenAI, another Musk-founded firm. In 2018, Neuralink listed Jared Birchall, the head of Musk’s family office, as CEO, CFO, and president. Musk was the primary owner of Neuralink as of September 2018, but he was not on the board of directors.

According to an article in Stat News, only three of the eight founding scientists remained at Neuralink by August 2020, after “years of internal struggle in which pushed schedules clashed with the slow and incremental pace of science.” In April 2021, Neuralink showed a monkey utilizing the Neuralink implant to play the game “Pong”. Scientists welcomed the engineering advancement in making the implant wireless and increasing the number of implanted electrodes, even though the fact that identical technology has existed since 2002 when a study group first exhibited a monkey moving a computer cursor with neural signals.

According to Gizmodo, Neuralink “remains highly covert about its work,” despite public records showing that this attempted to build an animal testing facility in San Francisco; it then began conducting research at the University of California, Davis. The Neuralink team disclosed the technology of the prototype they were working on in 2019 at a live presentation at the California Academy of Sciences. It’s a device that includes ultra-thin devices put into the brain, a neurosurgical robot that performs the procedures, and a high-density electronic system that can process information from neurons. It is based on technologies created at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley).

Robot

Neuralink claims to have built a robot capable of rapidly inserting a large number of flexible devices into the brain, perhaps avoiding the tissue damage and longevity issues that larger, more rigid probes can cause. This robot contains an insertion head with a 40-meter-diameter tungsten-rhenium needle that is meant to attach to the insertion loops, transfer and insert individual devices, and access the nerve roots and brain tissue. Up to six wires (192 electrodes) can be inserted each minute by the robot.

Probes

The probes, which are typically made of polyimide, a biocompatible polymer with a thin gold or platinum conductor, are implanted into the brain by a surgical robot in an automated process. Each probe has a wired section with electrodes capable of finding electrical impulses in the brain, as well as a sensory area where the wire interacts with an electronic system that allows the brain signal to be amplified and acquired. Each probe has a wired section with electrodes capable of finding electrical impulses in the brain, as well as a sensory area where the wire interacts with an electronic system that allows the brain signal to be amplified and acquired.

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Electronics

A 1,536-channel recording system has been created by Neuralink using an Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC). This system consists of 256 independently programmable amplifiers (“analog pixels”), on-chip analog-to-digital converters (“ADCs”), and remote circuit control to serialize the digitized data acquired. Its goal is to convert information from neurons into a binary code that can be understood to gain a better knowledge of brain function and the capacity to activate these neurons back. Electrodes are still too large to record the firing of individual neurons with current technology, so they can only record the firing of a group of neurons; Neuralink representatives believe this issue can be solved algorithmically, but it is computationally expensive and does not produce exact results.

An unnamed former employee attacked Neuralink’s corporate culture in a January 2022 piece in Fortune. They identified a “blame and fear culture” with shifting priorities. Moreover, Musk is accused of undermining management by pushing younger staff to “send issues and complaints straight to him.”

Neuralink tests their devices by surgically implanting them in the brains of live monkeys, pigs, and other animals. PETA and other animal rights organizations have slammed Neuralink’s tactics. Neuralink’s monkey tests were carried out in collaboration with UC Davis from 2017 to 2020. UC Davis transferred seven monkeys to Neuralink at the end of their collaboration. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) accused Neuralink and UC Davis of mistreating many monkeys, causing them severe discomfort, terrible suffering, and chronic illnesses as a result of procedures in 2022. Experiments carried out by Neuralink and UC Davis involved at least 23 monkeys, and the PCRM believes that 15 of them died or were killed as a result of the experiments. The PCRM also claimed that UC Davis concealed photographic and video proof of the mistreatment. Neuralink stated in February 2022 that monkeys died during testing, but that no animal mistreatment happened.

Several neurology experts have spoken in on Musk and Neuralink’s plans to develop a brain-computer interface. The scientific community has had a mixed reaction. Musk described one of their early gadgets as “a Fitbit in your skull” during a live demonstration in August 2020, claiming that it might soon treat paralysis, deafness, blindness, and other afflictions. These statements were slammed by many neuroscientists and journals. They were labeled as “extremely speculative” and “neuroscience drama” by MIT Technology. Professor Andrew Jackson of Newcastle University noted that while he didn’t “believe there was anything groundbreaking in Neuralink’s pig implant presentation,” the wireless aspects were “great.” According to Thiago Arzua of the Medical College of Wisconsin, Neuralink has “shown little more than a fancy new design for a BMI with more electrodes.”

Conclusion

To conclude, we discussed the Neuralink Brain-Machine Interface in this post. First, we talked about how a brain-chip gadget like Neuralink could help with brain and spine issues. Then we talked about the present technology and its limitations. We also discussed how Neuralink can be a better alternative to current technologies like the BrainGate Neural Interface System and Deep Brain Stimulation. Finally, we covered how the Neuralink is effortlessly placed and how it influences neurons by transmitting electric current through thousands of electrodes, influencing millions of neurons in the brain.


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