The Link: Merging Brains and Computers 

Source: ICT&health

Darshini Dayanidhi

In 2016, Elon Musk founded Neuralink, a company on a mission to create something extraordinary – “the Link.” The Link is a brain-computer interface (BCI) designed to decode and stimulate brain activity, establishing a direct connection between the human brain and computers.

It’s a tiny brain implant placed beneath the skull, with delicate threads extending into different areas of the brain, housing 1,024 electrodes. These electrodes act as highly sensitive sensors, recording and transmitting electrical signals. However, these threads are extremely fragile and delicate and as a result, inserting these implants manually with human hands is next to impossible, so Neuralink specifically built a fully automated neurosurgical robot for this purpose.

Neuralink is also developing an app that allows users to control a keyboard and mouse simply by using their thoughts. 

Initially, Neuralink’s primary goal was to help people with paralysis regain their communication abilities. However, their ambitions started to extend beyond that. They now aim to restore lost senses like sight and touch and address neurological conditions such as epilepsy and bipolar disorder.

“The Link”  does not read the subject’s thoughts; it interprets brain activity as actions. It can monitor brain activity whether the subject is in motion or just thinking about doing the motion, acting like a translator for their intentions.

Moreover, this technology has the potential to support mental health. It could potentially treat conditions like burnout, anxiety, and depression by delivering targeted electrical stimulation to specific brain areas.

This technology is predicted to enhance cognitive functions like memory, focus, and attention. Elon Musk compares “the Link” to a “Fitbit in your skull” with sensors rivaling those in a smartwatch.

In an astounding development, Neuralink announced in 2023 that they received authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to start human clinical trials. This was a significant milestone, especially since the FDA had rejected Neuralink’s application in early 2022 due to concerns about potential brain tissue damage during implant removal. Nonetheless, the company persevered to ensure safety and compliance.

Participants interested in being part of this groundbreaking journey must meet specific eligibility criteria set by Neuralink. Participants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents, at least 18 years old, and have distinct conditions such as paralysis, vision or hearing impairments, or speech difficulties.

However, it’s important to note that these impressive brain technologies come with potential side effects, including the risk of brain injury, headaches, bleeding, and allergic reactions. Additionally, there are concerns related to cybersecurity and privacy.

The possibility of transforming lives through brain-computer interfaces and ushering in a new age of human-computer connection is a thrilling prospect as Neuralink advances into the future with its revolutionary Link technology. The quest to unlock the human mind’s unexplored potential has barely begun, with FDA permission granted for human trials acquired.