Elon Musk announced Monday January 29 that the start-up Neuralink, of which he is co-founder, placed its first brain implant on a patient on Sunday, an operation which has already been carried out several times by other companies and researchers. Located in Fremont (California), in the suburbs of San Francisco, Neuralink obtained the green light from the American Drug and Medical Devices Regulatory Agency, the FDA, in May. Its implant, the size of a coin, has already been placed in the brain of a macaque, which managed to play the video game “Pong” without a controller or keyboard. “The first results show promising neuronal activity,” wrote Elon Musk on X (ex-Twitter), about the implant on a patient.
Founded in 2016, Neuralink is far from the first to install a brain implant, also called a brain-machine interface (BMI), on a human. In September, the Dutch company Onward announced that it was testing the coupling of a brain implant with another that stimulates the spinal cord, with the aim of allowing a quadriplegic patient to regain mobility. As early as 2019, researchers from the Grenoble Clinatec institute presented an implant allowing, once installed, a quadriplegic person to animate an exoskeleton and move their arms or move around.
Neuralink recently raised some $323 million from investors in two tranches, in August and November. Neuralink says it also wants to make paralyzed patients walk again, but also restore sight to the blind and even cure psychiatric illnesses such as depression. Elon Musk also aims to offer his implant to everyone, in order to enable better communication with computers and to contain, according to him, the “risk for our civilization” posed by artificial intelligence.