There is no doubt that we are getting closer to science fiction. Some time ago, the launch of the first microchip implant that makes it possible to pay with your hand was announced, and Elon Musk recently announced via Twitter that the “Link” brain implant from the neurotechnological company NEURALINK, of which he is a co-founder, will be able to cure tinnitus, a neurological condition characterized by ringing in the ears, in five years.
Definitely. Might be less than 5 years away, as current version Neuralinks are semi-generalized neural read/write devices with ~1000 electrodes and tinnitus probably needs <<1000.
Future gen Neuralinks will increase electrode count by many orders of magnitude.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 24, 2022
And this is not all, on the NEURALINK page itself it is described that «This technology has the potential to treat a wide range of neurological disorders, restore sensory and movement function and, finally, expand the way in which we interact with each other , with the world and with ourselves». In fact, the main and initial objective of the development of this medical device is to help people with paralysis (such as quadriplegia) to be able to communicate and recover, as far as possible, their independence by controlling computers or mobile phones only with their brain.
How is this possible? Well, the technology that is being developed for this implant is really fascinating and complex. In addition, applied neurology, which is the basis of its operation, is certainly highly specialized. In general, it is proposed that Link be installed in the brain, in turn, this device has thousands of micrometric-scale neuronal threads that must be directly connected to certain neurons in the brain areas that it is planned to control, which implies something like as a small expansion of the neural networks themselves.
This “assembly” in the brain requires a very clean and fine procedure that cannot be provided by surgery by the human hand, in such a way that the progress of high-precision automated neurosurgery is also being worked on, “we are building a system robotics that the neurosurgeon can use to reliably and efficiently insert these threads exactly where they need to be.”
Here comes the most impressive part, once installed in the brain, the device connects via Bluetooth to the mobile, computer, mouse or keyboard to control them directly just by thinking about it. In this way, this could allow quadriplegic people to send messages, surf the internet and maintain communication with the world.
In addition to how sensational this fact may seem, this is totally a milestone for technology since the brain implants that are currently approved, and that are used in the clinic to treat neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, are programmed only to emit certain stimuli to the brain and modulate its activity, but not to “transmit information to and from the brain”, as reported by NEURALINK.
Due to the information channel that is proposed to be obtained with the brain connections of this device, it is expected that, in the future, in addition to helping people with paralysis, other medical applications can be carried out, such as in the restoration of motor and sensory function. , or used as a treatment for certain neurological disorders in which it is recognized that the different neural networks that control our brain are altered.
For now, there is still an important way to go in research, currently Link is not an FDA-approved device and is in preclinical trials with model animals, although it is planned to start clinical trials in humans as soon as possible. The most essential currently for NEURALINK is to continue working on relevant innovations to improve device security.
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