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Elon Musk's Neuralink Rival To Give Six Paralysed People Brain Implants In US

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Elon Musk's Neuralink Rival To Give Six Paralysed People Brain Implants In US

Six paralysed people will be given brain implants by US company Synchron, the main competitor of Neuralink, Elon Musk’s brain chip startup.

It is hoped the device will allow patients to control digital devices - such as a computer - with the power of thought alone. 

Six people from New York and Pittsburgh are taking part in the trial, which will see a paperclip-sized device implanted into one of the blood vessels above their motor cortex - the area within the brain that controls movement. 

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Six paralysed people will be given brain implants in the US. Credit: Shutterstock
Six paralysed people will be given brain implants in the US. Credit: Shutterstock

The clinical trials, which were reported on by Bloomberg, consist of a minimally-invasive procedure, and patients’ skulls will not need to be opened up.

Instead, the implant will enter their bodies through a jugular vein incision, and once it reaches the motor cortex the device will expand, meaning electrodes are so close to the walls of blood vessels surrounding the brain that neural signals can be recorded. 

Said signals are then transmitted to a device that will be inserted under the skin of the patients’ chest.

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Brain activity is then translated into a digital language that will hopefully allow patients to carry out digital, hands-free activities like texting, online shopping and emailing. 

The clinical study should demonstrate how safe and effective the implants are and, if all goes well, they may become commercially available.

Back in April 2021, Musk announced on Twitter that his company Neuralink - which he founded back in 2016 - would also create technology that ‘enables someone with paralysis to use a smartphone with their mind faster than someone using thumbs’.

Synchron is the main competitor of Elon Musk’s Neuralink. Credit: Alamy
Synchron is the main competitor of Elon Musk’s Neuralink. Credit: Alamy
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In January 2022, it was reported by The Guardian that Neuralink was lining up clinical trials in humans.

The startup published an advert at the beginning of the year that announced the Silicon Valley company was on the hunt for a clinical trial director to spearhead tech tests on humans.

According to the paper, the advert read: “As the clinical trial director, you’ll work closely with some of the most innovative doctors and top engineers, as well as working with Neuralink’s first clinical trial participants.

“You will lead and help build the team responsible for enabling Neuralink’s clinical research activities and developing the regulatory interactions that come with a fast-paced and ever-evolving environment.”

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Credit: Synchron
Credit: Synchron

Speaking at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council summit a month prior, in December 2021, Musk even suggested that Neuralink’s implants would one day allow paralysed people to walk again.

He said: “We hope to have this in our first humans, which will be people that have severe spinal cord injuries like tetraplegics, quadriplegics, next year, pending FDA [Food and Drug Administration] approval.

“I think we have a chance with Neuralink to restore full-body functionality to someone who has a spinal cord injury.”

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Featured Image Credit: Alamy/Synchron

Topics: Technology, Elon Musk

Aisha Nozari
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