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Neuralink’s plans for brain-reading ‘threads’ unveiled

Reporter : Irina Robu, PhD

Neuralink, the secretive company created by Elon Musk is developing brain-machine interfaces. The goal of the innovation is to implant devices in paralyzed humans that allows them to control computers and/or   phones. According to Elon Musk, the first big advance is flexible threads, 4-6 μm in width which are embedded into a machine. 

The goal of the projects is to use a laser beam through the skull, rather than drilling holes. The idea is to achieve a symbiosis with artificial intelligence. The first person with spinal cord paralysis that received a brain implant is Matthew Nagle. After receiving the implant, Nagle was able to master basic movement in four days and he was able to play Pong using his mind.

According to Musk and Hodak, the system presented by Neuralink  is an advancement to older technology. Neuralink developed a neurosurgical robot capable of inserting six threads (192 electrodes) per minute. The robot avoids blood vessels, which may lead to less of an inflammatory response in the brain. Yet, the central problem with AI is actually bandwidth. To solve the problem, the company developed a custom chip that is better able to read, clean up, and amplify signals from the brain. Right now, it can only transmit data via a wired connection (it uses USB-C), but ultimately the goal is to create a system than can work wirelessly.

The wireless goal will be embodied in a product that Neuralink calls the “N1 sensor,” designed to be embedded inside a human body and transmit its data wirelessly. The sensor may read fewer neurons than the current USB-based prototype. According to Musk, Neuralink intends to implant four of these sensors , three in motor areas and one in somatosensory area. The sensors will connect wirelessly to an external device and can be controlled via iPhone app.

But before being able to call the product a success, the device has to be approved by the FDA.  Right now, the company is working to make sure the platform is stable. Yet, the technology is very promising. The hope is that a higher bandwidth brain connection implanted via robot surgery.

SOURCE

https://www.theverge.com/2019/7/16/20697123/elon-musk-neuralink-brain-reading-thread-robot

 

 

 

 

 

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