Elon Musk is looking for people who want to have a Neuralink chip inserted into their brains.
Months after receiving approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conduct human trials, Neuralink is looking for its first test subjects. Writes about this The Verge.
The six-year trial, which the Elon Musk-owned company calls the PRIME Study, is designed to test Neuralink's technology. It is designed to help people with paralysis control devices. The company is looking for people with quadriplegia due to vertical spinal cord injury, or ALS, who are over 22 years of age and have a “regular and reliable caregiver” to participate in the study.
PRIME, which stands for Precise Robotically Implanted Brain-Computer Interface, is supposed to study three things at once.
The first is the N1 implant, a brain-computer device from Neuralink. The second is the R1 surgical robot, which will actually implant the device. The third is the N1 User App, software that connects to the N1 and converts brain signals into computer actions. Neuralink says it plans to test the safety and effectiveness of all three parts of the system.
To be clear, this is not the all-encompassing brain computer Musk has been talking about for years. He's been touting the power of telepathy and using Neuralink to help humans keep up with artificial intelligence for years, but the system Neuralink plans to test has nothing to do with those ambitions.
Researchers have long been testing implants that allow people with paralysis to control computers and other devices. For example, two recently published studies have shown that brain-computer interfaces can help patients with ALS communicate by typing on a computer.
Still, the study is a big step for Neuralink, which received FDA approval in May.
It has been a magnet for controversy over the years, both due to Musk's over-promising and the company's internal practices.
For example, there have been repeated questions about the treatment of monkeys during testing: Musk recently stated that the tests were only on "terminal monkeys" and that no monkeys died as a result of Neuralink implantation, but regulators have found numerous problems related to the handling of animals. The company is also under investigation for illegally transporting devices extracted from monkeys and contaminated with pathogens.
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PRIME participants will first complete an 18-month study that includes nine visits with researchers. After that, they will spend at least two hours a week in brain-computer interface research sessions, and then make 20 more visits over the next five years. Neuralink won't say how many subjects it's looking for or when it plans to start the study, but says it only intends to reimburse "study-related expenses," such as travel to and from the study site.
As with many things related to Neuralink, it is difficult to separate the company's promises from its plans, making it difficult to say what will be done and when as part of the PRIME study. But, apparently, we will soon get the first idea of what happens if you let Elon Musk into your head.
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