In an announcement on 28 August, Neuralink unveiled prototypes of its device and showed off pigs with the devices implanted in their brains.
The device resembles a coin with extremely thin wires coming from one side of it. It is designed to be implanted in the skull, with the wires embedded a few millimetres into the surface of the brain. Those wires can then detect when neurons are firing, or emit their own electrical signals to make the neurons fire. Musk showed a video of neurons responding to the electrodes.
Eventually, the hope is that these small devices will be able to both read and write neuron signals, helping with medical problems that originate in the brain and spine and maybe even allowing humans to integrate computers into their brains in the distant future, Musk said.
Musk said that implantation can be done with relatively little bleeding in the brain. “You sort of think if you stab something with a wire surely it will bleed, but actually at a really small scale it does not,” he said.
“They downplayed the potential damage to the brain, but that damage is sometimes not easily observable even in humans, let alone pigs,” [the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research’s Timir] Datta-Chaudhuri says. “You don’t know if the pig now has a slur or the other pigs aren’t really socialising with it because it’s acting weird.”