Elon Musk, a tech tycoon, has claimed that his Neuralink company has successfully implanted one of its wireless brain chips in a human.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, he stated that “promising” brain activity had been observed following the treatment and that the patient was “recovering well”.

The company’s mission is to connect human brains to computers in order to better treat complex neurological diseases.

A handful of competitor companies have already implanted similar devices.

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“For any company producing medical devices, the first test in humans is a significant milestone,” said Professor Anne Vanhoestenberghe of King’s College London.

“For the brain computer interface community, we must place this news in the context that whilst there are many companies working on exciting products, there are only a few other companies who have implanted their devices in humans, so Neuralink has joined a rather small group.”

However, she cautioned that “true success” could only be measured over time.

“We know Elon Musk is very adept at generating publicity for his company,” she said.

Other firms that have made similar achievements in the sector include Switzerland’s École Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne (EPFL), which has successfully enabled a paralyzed man to walk simply by thinking.

This was accomplished by placing electrical implants in his brain and spine that wirelessly transfer thoughts to his legs and feet.

The breakthrough was reported in the peer-reviewed journal Nature in May 2023.

There has been no independent verification of Mr Musk’s assertions, and Neuralink has not disclosed any details about the technique he claims occurred.

BBC News has contacted Neuralink and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for comment.

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Neuralink testing

Neuralink has faced criticism in the past, with Reuters reporting in December 2022 that the business conducted tests that led in the deaths of roughly 1,500 animals, including lambs, monkeys, and pigs.

In July 2023, the chairman of the US Department of Agriculture, which examines animal welfare allegations, stated that there had been no violations of animal research guidelines at the corporation.

However, the agency is currently conducting a separate probe.

The FDA gave Mr Musk’s business permission to test the chip on humans in May 2023.

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That cleared the way for the six-year project, in which a robot will surgically implant 64 flexible threads, thinner than a human hair, into a portion of the brain that governs “movement intention,” according to Neuralink.

The business claims that these threads enable their experimental implant, which is powered by a wirelessly rechargeable battery, to record and transmit brain impulses to an app that decodes how the individual wishes to move.

“[It] has great potential to help people with neurological disorders in the future and is an excellent example of how fundamental neuroscience research is being harnessed for medical advances,” Professor Tara Spires-Jones, president of the British Neuroscience Association, stated.

“However, most of these interfaces require invasive neurosurgery and are still in experimental stages thus it will likely be many years before they are commonly available.”

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In another post on X, Mr Musk stated that Neuralink’s initial product will be called Telepathy.

Telepathy, he claimed, would allow “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 went on to say.

Referring to the late British scientist who suffered from motor neurone illness, he remarked, “Imagine if Stephen Hawking could communicate faster than a speed typist or auctioneer.” “That is the goal.”

While Mr Musk’s involvement enhances the visibility of Neuralink, several of his competitors have a history extending back two decades. In 2004, Utah-based Blackrock Neurotech implanted the first of many brain-computer connections.

Precision Neuroscience, founded by a Neuralink co-founder, likewise seeks to assist patients with paralysis. And its implant resembles a very thin piece of tape that rests on the surface of the brain and can be inserted through a “cranial micro-slit,” which it claims is a lot simpler procedure.

Existing equipment also produced findings. In two independent recent US research investigations, implants were used to record brain activity while a person attempted to talk, which could subsequently be decoded to aid communication.