Even if Elon Musk’s Neuralink brain chip never gives us telepathy, it could do wonders for animal testing

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In his quest to merge human consciousness with AI, Elon Musk could massively improve the world of animal testing.

Alongside his more well-known ventures Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk owns a company called Neuralink. Founded in 2017, Neuralink has been working on trying to make a computer chip that could be implanted in a person’s brain.

The near-term applications for putting these chips into people’s brains would be to study and treat neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease. They could theoretically even restore movement to paralyzed patients via robotic prostheses connected wirelessly to the brain chip.

But Musk isn’t satisfied talking about the near-term. During an August demonstration of Neuralink, he claimed the device would enable people to do things like “save and replay memories,” or summon their car telepathically.

On August 28, Musk livestreamed a demo of a working Neuralink device implanted in the brain of a pig named Gertrude.

The device was embedded in Gertrude’s skull, with wires fanning out into her brain with electrodes capable of detecting, recording, and theoretically even stimulating brain activity.

To sift through the solid science and Musk’s more bombastic claims, Business Insider spoke to neuroscientist Professor Andrew Jackson of the University of Newcastle, who has worked with placing neural interfaces in animals — i.e. brain chips like the ones Neuralink wants to make.

Jackson said he was impressed by the kit Neuralink showed off.

“One of the things that I think is important is they are pushing up the number of channels that you can record,” he told Business Insider.

Until recently, the best commercially available product anyone performing wireless tests on animals could get their hands on recorded about 100 channels — Neuralink’s device would up that number to 1,000.

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Jackson said the fact the Neuralink device is contained within a small package that can go in the skull is also a big improvement. “That’s obviously very important as you go to humans, but I think also it could be very useful for people working with animals at the moment,” he said.

At the moment a lot of neural implants on animal test subjects involve wires poking out through the skin, and a completely wireless link covered by the skin would reduce the risk of infection, Jackson said.

“Even if the technology doesn’t do anything more than we’re able to do at the moment — in terms of number of channels or whatever — just from a welfare aspect for the animals, I think if you can do experiments with something that doesn’t involve wires coming through the skin, that’s going to improve the welfare of animals,” he said.

“In [Neuralink’s] credit they clearly paid attention to the ethics of animal experimentation,” said Jackson added. “I thought it was good that they at least acknowledged it was important for these animals to be well looked after,” he said.

For the sake of any future humans who might get a Neuralink put in their brains, the welfare of test animals like Gertrude is vital, because the tests have to be conducted over several …read more

Source:: Business Insider

      

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