Elon Musk's Neuralink Start-Up Is Looking for Its First Volunteer to Test Brain Implant Surgery

The company said it received federal approval to test brain implants in humans earlier this year.

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Elon Musk's neurotechnology company Neuralink, which is developing brain implants, is seeking a volunteer willing to let a surgeon cut into their skull to insert electrodes and small wires into their brain.

As reported by Bloomberg, the company is hoping to find a quadriplegic adult under the age of 40 to become one of its first human test subjects. A surgeon will remove a chunk of their skull, allowing a robot to insert thin wires and electrodes into their brain. The portion of the skull will be replaced by a small computer that will stay there for an unspecified number of years. The computer is only the size of a quarter but will read and analyze the individual's brain activity, which will be sent to a laptop or tablet.

The Neuralink implant will be inserted into the hand knob area of their premotor cortex—the portion of the brain that controls hands, forearms, and wrists. The purpose of the test is to showcase how the implant could safely collect data from the patient's brain, which could also help convey the person's thoughts into commands fed into a computer.

The robot that will insert the technology into the brain is dubbed "R1" and stands 7-foot-tall. It will push a total of 64 threads approximately 1/14th the diameter of a strand of human hair into the brain. Each of the threads contains 16 electrodes that can gather data. The robot has already performed a number of surgeries on pigs, sheep, and monkeys.

“The last two years have been all about focus on building a human-ready product," said Neuralink co-founder DJ Seo. "It’s time to help an actual human being.”

Earlier this year, Neuralink announced it received federal approval to test its implants on humans. “We are excited to share that we have received the FDA’s approval to launch our first-in-human clinical study,” a rep for the Elon Musk co-founded company said. "This is the result of incredible work by the Neuralink team in close collaboration with the FDA and represents an important first step that will one day allow our technology to help many people."

While the company hopes to produce a "generalized brain interface [to] restore autonomy to those with debilitating neurological conditions and unmet medical needs," it has also come under scrutiny.

In December last year, the company was facing the threat of a federal investigation in connection with its alleged instances of Animal Welfare Act violations. Activists have accused Neuralink of rushing its animal testing programs, resulting in a higher number of tested and/or killed animals.

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