Elon Musk’s Neuralink brain chip can do wonders for animal testing and neuroscience

  • Elon Musk hosted a live demo on August 28 from his company, Neuralink, in which a pig named Gertrude was shown with a computer chip relaying live signals from his brain.
  • To treat neurologic conditions, to treat neurological conditions, and according to Musk, one day human consciousness merges with computers.
  • Neuroscientist Pro. Andrew Jackson told Business Insider that even though the technology falls far short of Neuralink’s mission statement, it can be extremely beneficial to the animal testing world, which in turn can lead to medical breakthroughs.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In his quest to combine human consciousness with AI, Elon Musk could make massive improvements in the world of animal testing.

Along with his more famous ventures Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk owns a company called Neuralink. Founded in 2017, Neuralink is working on trying to make a computer chip that can be implanted into a person’s brain.

Near-term applications will need to be studied and treated for neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, to put these chips in people’s brains. They could theoretically restore movement to paralyzed patients through a robot prosthesis connected wirelessly to a brain chip.

But Musk is not satisfied with talking about the near term. During an August performance of Neuralink, he claimed that the device would enable people to do things like “save and replay memories”, or call their car telepathically.

On August 28, Musk livestreamed a demo of a working Neuralink device, which was implanted into the brain of a pig named Gertud.

The device was mounted in Gertrude’s skull, which was also capable of detecting, recording, and theoretically stimulating brain activity with wires stretching across her brain.

Neuralink pig

Neuralink’s pig Gertrude was the star of the demo.

Newlink youtube demo

To sift through solid science and Musk’s more bombastic claims, Business Insider spoke to Newcastle University neuroscientist Professor Andrew Jackson, who has worked with placing neural interfaces in animals – ie making brain chips such as neelinks Want to

Jackson said he was affected by Kit Neuralink.

“One of the things that I think is important is that they are increasing the number of channels you can record,” he told Business Insider.

Until recently, the best commercially available product, anyone conducting wireless testing on animals could have their hands recorded on about 100 channels – Neuralink’s device would increase that number to 1,000.

Jackson said the fact that the Neuralink device is contained in a small package that can go into the skull is also a major improvement. “It’s obviously very important because you go to humans, but I think it can also be very useful for people working with animals,” he said.

Jackson said that at the moment a lot of nerve implants on animal test subjects eject wires through the skin, and that a completely wireless link reduces the risk of infection.

“Even though technology doesn’t do much more than what we are able to do at the moment – in terms of the number of channels or whatever – just from a welfare aspect for animals, I think if you experiment with something It does not include wires coming through the skin, which is going to improve the welfare of the animals, ”he said.

“In [Neuralink’s] He stated that he clearly paid attention to the ethics of animal use, “Jackson said,” I felt that it is good that they at least acknowledge that it was important to take good care of these animals. ” said.

For any future humans who can put a Neuralink in their brain, the welfare of test animals such as Gertrude is important, as many years of testing are done to ensure that the device is not harmful at any stage. needed. , And to ensure that it will work forever.

“Everything you put into the body gets covered in scar tissue. If you’re trying to listen to these small signals from brain cells to shut down, as your device gets clogged with scar tissue “So it gets harder and harder to get those signals. This process can take anything from days to years with a few days of electrodes,” Jackson said.

18 is the most common age for spinal cord injuries […] So you are living with a condition for five decades. So for these things to be truly useful, a lifetime should be measured in decades and months, ”he said.

During the performance, Musk stated that Gertrude had Neuralink on her mind for two months.

In action, the device appeared to relay information as Gertrude sniffed using her muzzle, and when placed on a treadmill it was able to accurately estimate the position of her legs as she rode along. .

For neuroscientists like Jackson, this was nothing new. “It’s something that’s been shown many times before now, both for walking, the movements of the legs, and also for the movements of the upper limb in monkeys,” he said.

Gertrude Neuralink

The communication of the neurlink device to Gertrude’s brain occurs during the demo as he sniffs around.

Neuralink / YouTube

Jackson was also more skeptical of Musk’s claims that the technology could one day be used to enhance human cognition, mixing it with AI.

“Not to say that it won’t happen, but I think the underlying neuroscience is much more volatile. We understand very little about how those processes work in the brain, and only because when you go into a pig Can estimate foot position. Walking on a treadmill does not mean that you will be able to read thoughts automatically.

Despite Musk’s claim of a merger of human and computer consciousness, Jackson is eager to see Neuralink available to animal researchers.

“I hope they take that approach and try to make this technology widely available within the world of animal research, as well as what they are trying to do, which is approved for human use . ”

Better animal testing in turn would mean better research in humans. ”

I think it will be very beneficial for the region […] Certainly this technology will have applications in neuroscience research and any new technology will be good and will advance that research. And that research can improve the way Parkinson’s disease is treated [for example] Even though technology never becomes part of treatment, ”Jackson said.