Musk's Neuralink Is Ready for a Human Trial

Qualifying quadriplegics to take part in 6-year study of brain-computer interface
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 20, 2023 12:04 PM CDT

A few months after receiving FDA approval to launch human trials, Neuralink is looking for people willing to let an experimental robot stick an equally experimental device into their brain. Elon Musk's brain-implant startup is seeking people over the age of 22 with quadriplegia due to vertical spinal cord injury or ALS who have a "consistent and reliable caregiver" to join a six-year trial dubbed "the PRIME Study." It's an acronym that "makes no sense" as it "apparently stands for Precise Robotically Implanted Brain-Computer Interface," the Verge reports. "The initial goal of our [brain-computer interface] is to grant people the ability to control a computer cursor or keyboard using their thoughts alone," aiding communication, Neuralink said in a Tuesday blog post, per CNBC.

The study will test the brain implant device, the robot that surgically implants the device, and a user app whose software turns brain signals into computer actions. Though Neuralink's implants have only been tested in animals, similar devices have already been inserted into human brains and been shown to help ALS patients communicate through a computer. A video published last month also shows researchers translating brain signals from a paralyzed stroke survivor into text, speech, and facial expressions. Neuralink's "cosmetically invisible" wireless device will be implanted into "a region of the brain that controls movement intention" and "is intended to record and transmit brain signals wirelessly to an app that decodes movement intention," the company said.

The launch of human trials "represents an important step in our mission to create a generalized brain interface to restore autonomy to those with unmet medical needs," Neuralink added. Participants will initially meet with researchers nine times over 18 months before taking part in brain-computer interface research sessions; more visits with researchers will follow. Neuralink won't pay participants but will cover "study-related costs," such as travel expenses, though, it's not clear when or where participants would need to travel—the location of Neuralink's first hospital site has not been disclosed—or even how many participants are needed. Those interested can sign up here. The Guardian notes that even if the trial is successful, approval for patients in the general population could be decades off. (More Neuralink stories.)

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