At Least Six Years to Finish First Neuralink Clinical Trials

Neuralink is designing the Link to connect to thousands of neurons in the brain, so that it may one day be able to record the activity of these neurons, process these signals in real time, and translate intended movements directly into the control of an external device. As a first application of our technology, they hope to help people with quadriplegia by giving them the ability to control computers and mobile devices directly with their thoughts.

The US clinical first trials for therapeutic purposes will take at least six years.

They would start by recording neural activity in the brain’s movement areas. As users think about moving their arms or hands, they would decode those intentions, which would be sent over Bluetooth to the user’s computer. Users would initially learn to control a virtual mouse. Later, as users get more practice and our adaptive decoding algorithms continue to improve, they expect that users would be able to control multiple devices, including a keyboard or a game controller.

The first application will enable people with quadriplegia to control a point-and-click computer cursor. They believe there are many other potential future applications for the Link. These may include restoring motor, sensory, and visual function, as well as treatment of neurological disorders.

Ten to Twenty Years for Non-Medical Applications

Neuralink is currently focused on developing medical devices. They believe these devices have the potential to help people with a wide range of injuries and neurological disorders, and we hope to develop treatments for many of these conditions in the coming years. They expect that as the devices continue to scale, and as they learn to communicate with more areas of the brain, they will discover new, non-medical applications for our BCIs. Neuralink’s long-term vision is to create BCIs that are sufficiently safe and powerful that the general population would want to have them.

6 thoughts on “At Least Six Years to Finish First Neuralink Clinical Trials”

  1. Brain implants have long had the problem that they work for a while, but then scar tissue builds up, and they stop working. I’ve never heard whether Neuralink has this problem too, or whether they solved it. Their silence on the issue is not a good sign.

    • I think that’s more of a problem with the implants that use electrodes. Perhaps they can switch to optogenetics. (You coat a fiber optic ‘electrode’ with a virus that causes the nerve cells to express photosensitive pigments in their cell membranes, allowing you to interface with them optically.)

      • I’ve heard that the scar tissue is caused by the physical presence of the probe in the brain, possibly because it is moving differently than the brain itself. Which suggests fiber would have the same problem as metal.

        You can solve the problem by laying a net of electrodes on top of the brain surface, or inside the walls of blood vessels. But then you’re farther from the neurons you’re measuring or sending signals to.

        Which is why I would love to hear whether his implanted electrodes have a scar tissue problem.

  2. It’s nice to hear news of Neuralink, although predictably the progress is going to be slow. It may be a tougher problem than SFD, and how long has Tesla been working on _that_ problem?

    • Self driving is hideously complex, because there are so many ill defined special cases to handle, like, “The signage is crystal clear, but that guy wearing a cop uniform is waving you over in a different direction.” But the hardware you’re driving, a car, is already on hand.

      The issue with neural links is that the biological hardware isn’t built to be interfaced to, and is very delicate, so getting a good connection that doesn’t degrade over time is tough.

      Once they can get high density electrode arrays that don’t degrade over time, or worse, degrade the tissue they’re planted in, the real fun begins, because human brains aren’t all that standardized. Likely you’ve got to relearn each individual brain! Well, maybe the brain can learn the electrodes over time, instead, it at least already has learning capacity built in.

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