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Musk's Firm Neuralink Displays Pigs With Computer Chips In Their Brains

Musk's Firm Neuralink Displays Pigs With Computer Chips In Their Brains
A pig named Gertrude had been implanted with a coin-sized computer chip in its brain about two months ago by neuroscience startup Neuralink owned by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk and the company unveiled the pig on Friday.
This is a very preliminary but important development in the goal of the company to using the same technology to cure human diseases using similar implants.
The San Francisco Bay Area-based Neuralink was co-founded by Tesla Inc and SpaceX CEO Musk in 2016. The firm aims to implant wireless brain-computer interfaces that include thousands of electrodes in the most complex human organ to aid in the curing of neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s, dementia and spinal cord injuries. The ultimate aim is to combine humankind and artificial intelligence.
“An implantable device can actually solve these problems,” Musk said on a webcast Friday, mentioning ailments such as memory loss, hearing loss, depression and insomnia.
No timeline for such treatments was provided by Musk which was an apparent retreating from an earlier statement by him in which he indicated that human trials for this new technology would begin by the end of this year. Neuralink’s head surgeon Dr. Matthew MacDougall said that the company’s first clinical trials involving a small number of human patients will be aimed at treating paralysis or paraplegia.
The latest development clearly indicated that Neuralink had made great strides but longer studies to come to a conclusion were needed, said neuroscientists unaffiliated with the company.
The presentation of the so called “three little pigs demo” was presented by Musk. The pig, called Gertrude was fitted with a Neuralink implant in the part of its brain that controls the snout. And when the pig started to eating off of a stool and sniffing straw, there were spikes on a graph could be seen that tracks the neural activity of the animal.
Three pigs with two implants each had been prepared by the company, Musk said.
They were “healthy, happy and indistinguishable from a normal pig,” Musk said. The company predicted a pig’s limb movement during a treadmill run at “high accuracy” using implant data, Musk said.
The chip implanted by the company in the pigs was described by Musk as “a Fitbit in your skull with tiny wires”. The chip is about 23 millimeters (0.9 inch) in diameter.
“I could have a Neuralink right now and you wouldn’t know,” Musk said. “... Maybe I do.”
Neuralink’s advancements were “order of magnitude leaps” beyond current science because of the very small size of the novel chip, as ell s its portability, power management and wireless capabilities, said Graeme Moffat, a University of Toronto neuroscience research fellow.
Since an initial demonstration of an earlier chip in July 2019, substantial and impressive progress had been made by the company, said Stanford University neuroscientist Sergey Stavisky.
“Going from that to the fully implanted system in several pigs they showed is impressive and, I think, really highlights the strengths of having a large multidisciplinary team focused on this problem,” Stavisky said.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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