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The Monarch Times

Brain Implant Trials Begin

Person+being+puppeted+by+AI.
Elisandra Hampton
Person being puppeted by AI.

Neuralink is a startup co-founded by Elon Musk in 2016. The company’s focus is to create a surgically implanted brain-machine interface device (B.M.I). The device is intended to help aid people with disabilities. It works like a cursor and communicates directions from the user to a digital device. According to the Built In website, the goal is to “help enhance user memory and cognitive abilities, restore a user’s motor, sensory and visual functions as well as treat neurological disorders.”  

There are arguments on both sides of the debate as we move forward with using  Artificial Intelligence (AI) for various things. Those who support using this new technology think it will benefit neurological research and give people with limited access a better quality of life.  

Others worry that it is a slippery slope. Once you have a device that is attached to your brain, there is more concern about whether it controls you or vice versa. “I think it will be a very good technology to have. I think it should not be prevented, but it should be well regulated,” said Mt. Eden Biology and Chemistry teacher Ramanpreet Deol. 

This implant is placed surgically in a person’s head and allows the user to communicate action without movement to a digital device. The implant contains 1,024 electrodes that are distributed by 64 threads which conduct electric signals from the brain to the implant.  According to Neuralink’s  website, the electrode threads are too thin to be inserted by human hands or tools. Therefore, a surgical robot is used. The robot contains a camera that shows the process of inserting the threads with a small needle.

The company’s headquarters is based in Fremont, California, though the company has utilized facilities owned by UC Davis for its animal trials on macaque monkeys. Neuralink used clinical trials on animals such as rodents, sheep, and pigs to test the device. This resulted in health complications for the animals such as infections and brain inflammation, which has sparked criticism and discussions on the ethics of animal testing. In addition to concerns over animal safety, many unanswered questions remain about this new technology. It is unclear what the long-term health, ethical, and societal impacts will be. 

After the animal tests, human trials were approved by the Food  and Drug Administration (FDA) in May of 2023. The company solicited applicants to begin the necessary research. The process restricted the trials to people with vision, speech, hearing, or mobility impairments. A video posted by Neuralink on Youtube features a macaque monkey named Pager playing a ping pong video game using the implant. 

Although Neuralink has its critics, many are optimistic about the future of brain implant technology. “…It’s the kind of thing I couldn’t have imagined as a kid, so it’s pretty amazing. I was just talking with my wife’s father the other day […] there was a commercial for the new Call of Duty game, and we were reminiscing about what video games looked like when we were kids and saying we couldn’t have imagined what the world is like now… Stuff like that makes me excited for your guys’ future,” said Mt. Eden Anatomy and Biology teacher Nathan Konrad.

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About the Contributors
Myldret Vazquez, Business Manager
Hey everyone! My name is Myldret Vazquez-Bejar, I have been writing for The Monarch Times since the 2022-23 school year after my friend informed me that there was a Journalism Club. I am currently the Business and Marketing Manager. Ever since, I’ve grown very close with the TMT team where I find a sense of comfort, belonging and community. I love drawing, going hiking, tea and music.  
Elisandra Hampton, Copy Editor, Formatting Editor
My name is Elisandra Hampton and I am the Copy Editor and Formatting Editor of The Monarch Times for the 2023-24 school year. I joined The Monarch Times last year and I am dedicated to writing quality articles. I was born in Hayward, raised in Hayward, and plan to die in Hayward. My hobbies include drawing, reading, and spending hours on Instagram Reels. I hope I can continue creating informative content this year.  
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