Elon Musk’s brain-chip company, Neuralink, has announced that it has gained approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to proceed with its first human tests. Neuralink aims to revolutionise the field of neurotechnology by establishing a connection between the human brain and computers, with the ultimate goal of restoring vision and mobility to individuals facing disabilities.

The company does not currently have immediate plans to recruit participants. However, this achievement marks a crucial advancement in Neuralink’s mission. Previous attempts to secure FDA approval were unsuccessful due to safety concerns, as reported by multiple current and former employees cited in a Reuters news agency article in March.

Neuralink envisions the use of microchips to address conditions such as paralysis and blindness, as well as assist disabled individuals in utilizing computers and mobile technology. These microchips have undergone successful testing in primates. They are designed to interpret brain signals and transmit information to external devices via Bluetooth technology.

Moreover, Musk has suggested that this cutting-edge technology could potentially alleviate concerns about human displacement caused by artificial intelligence (AI).

Announcing the FDA approval on Twitter, Neuralink described it as an “important first step that will one day allow our technology to help many people.” The company credited the collaboration between its team and the FDA for the achievement and promised to share further details soon regarding the recruitment of trial participants.

Neuralink is committed to prioritising safety, accessibility, and reliability throughout its engineering process, as emphasised on its website. However, experts caution that extensive testing will be necessary to overcome technical and ethical challenges before Neuralink’s brain implants can become widely available.

Neuralink’s hurdles

Elon Musk founded Neuralink in 2016. The company has encountered repeated setbacks and overestimated the pace of its plans. Initially, the company aimed to implant chips in human brains by 2020, a pledge made in the preceding year. Subsequently, they shifted the target start date to 2022.

Elon Musk’s company faced additional hurdles in December of the previous year when reports emerged of alleged animal welfare violations in its research, leading to an investigation. The company has denied these claims.

This recent FDA approval follows another breakthrough in brain implant technology by Swiss researchers. In that case, a paralyzed man from the Netherlands successfully regained the ability to walk through a system of wireless implants that transmit his thoughts to his legs and feet.