Neuralink implants brain-computer chip in first human trial participant

The first human has received Neuralink’s brain-computer interface, which company founder Elon Musk has claimed could one day help the blind see, restore mobility to people with severe paralysis and inextricably link anyone’s brain to their smartphone.

Musk shared the update on Neuralink’s first human clinical trial Monday evening in a series of posts on X, the social media platform he owns.

The trial’s first implant in a human brain took place Jan. 28, according to the first of his posts. The patient “is recovering well,” he wrote, adding, “Initial results show promising neuron spike detection.”

The clinical trial began recruiting last fall, when the company published a blog post looking for adult volunteers with paralysis of the arms and legs caused by a cervical spinal cord injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS.

The PRIME study—named for Neuralink’s precise robotically implanted brain-computer interface—will see the company’s specially designed R1 robot implant the N1 devices onto the brains of a handful of participants. The device contains several dozen threads that hold more than 1,000 electrodes; it is placed on a specific region of the brain to record neurological activity, which is then transferred to a connected app.

To start, the collected data will be used to train an algorithm to recognize each implanted patient’s individual neurological patterns. The algorithm will then be tasked with translating the paralyzed participants’ brain activity into computer controls, enabling them to move a cursor or type out words using only their thoughts.

That first application for Neuralink’s technology has been dubbed Telepathy, Musk wrote on X Monday.

“Enables control of your phone or computer, and through them almost any device, just by thinking. Initial users will be those who have lost the use of their limbs,” he continued. “Imagine if Stephen Hawking could communicate faster than a speed typist or auctioneer. That is the goal.”

Neuralink earned the long-awaited signoff from the FDA to begin the first human trial of its technology last spring following a series of setbacks that included slower-than-expected progress, concerns about the company’s treatment of animal subjects and, according to newly surfaced documents, a federal investigation into its handling of hazardous materials.

The PRIME study is expected to span around six years, starting with the 18-month primary study, during which participants will undergo nine at-home and in-person clinical check-ins, plus twice-weekly brain-computer interface research sessions. Once the primary study period has wrapped, a long-term follow-up will begin immediately, comprising 20 clinic visits over the course of five years.