The science behind Elon Musk’s Neuralink? How does it work?

Neuralink

image source: Neuralink

so when I first heard about the Elon Musk’s Neuralink few years ago I thought it was pie in the sky but after watching the presentation.

Thinking about it a little bit a lot of this stuff has actually been done before it’s nothing new it’s just been done a lot better.

so let’s take a look at what the neuralink is how it works and the new feature that we could all be facing.

years ago I thought it was pie in the sky but after watching the presentation. Thinking about it a little bit a lot of this stuff has actually been done before it’s nothing new it’s just been done a lot better so let’s take a look at what the neuralink is how it works and the new feature that we could all be facing.

In July of 2019, Elon Musk had a presentation detailing the neuralink project earlier in the year on the Joe Rogan podcast Musk said that those are big announcement coming and this was it.

So what is the neuralink must states that human cognition has two major systems the limbic system where our emotions needs and once are processed.

And then the cortex which involves thinking and planning the neuralink in its final form is to be the third layer on top of this.

digital superintelligence

A digital superintelligence layer augmenting ourselves with computers and eventually artificial intelligence depending on how you look at it we already have this layer in the form of our phones and laptops you’ve all heard the saying that we have all of the world’s information at our fingertips.

The bottleneck and all of this is how we interface with that information fingers and speech are too slow and a very low bandwidth form of communication between us and our devices a much faster way to get to this information would be directly this is called the brain-machine interface.

The Elon Musk’s Neuralink is an effort to solve this problem it’s already been a massive multidisciplinary effort it includes scientists doctors electrical engineers surgeons and more.

So how does it work? so our brain consists of neurons firing all the time in response to electrical signals sent when we see here move talk or think whenever a neuron fires from these electrical signals a tiny electromagnetic field is present basically Elon Musk’s Neuralink is going to tap into these tiny electric fields generated as sinus junctions in the brain it’s going to interpret this analogue data as ones and zeros to be used in the digital world the neuron pulses will be detected using tiny threads about one-tenth the cross-section of a human hair or about the size of a neuron each thread is to be installed with a robot so it’s not going to burst blood vessels or cause trauma.

brain stimulation

The needle for insertion is 24 microns in diameter much smaller than the state-of-the-art.

In deep brain stimulation, such surgeries had been done before for deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s sufferers though these traditional methods have a 1 in 100 chance of causing a severe brain haemorrhage.

A smaller footprint should make things much safer the state of the art for Parkinson’s deep brain stimulation has around 10 electrodes the Elon Musk’s Neuralink contains thousands of electrodes these electrodes need to be less than 60 microns away to detect a fire in neuron.

And serve as the interface that reads data from the brain and sends data to the brain the processor for making all of this work is something called the n1 chip the n1 chip reads analogue brain signals amplifies them digitizes them processes them and then sends it out to a pot device behind the ear the pod device is the only thing that’s going to be upgraded and the implant stay as they are remove the pod.

The chip

And everything shuts off the n1 chip is 4 by 5 millimeters low-power and has built-in hardware for processing brain signals it can read 20,000 brain samples per second so these are real raw signals coming from a neuralink hooked up to a brain what the scientists are looking for a spikes in voltage when a neuron fires this is the fundamental element of communication within the brain an algorithm can detect these spikes in real-time decode them.

And make sense that the vast amounts of data coming in the system can not only read data from the brain but also write data to do this a signal is run through an electrode near a neuron causing that neuron to fire this kind of thing again isn’t new.

It has been done since the late 1950s it’s actually the basic technologies behind the cochlear implant the one that helps restore hearing the information inputted into the brain doesn’t have to be perfect because of neuroplasticity this means the brain learns how to use the new information reading data from the brain and inputting data into the brain can be an already kind of has been used to treat things like Parkinson’s.

increase cognitive function

And epilepsy but future applications can include things as far as depression and chronic pain further applications could increase cognitive function.

It will be controlled by phone the first goal is to get patients to be able to control a mobile device a phone mouse or computer keyboard the neuralink will show up as a regular Bluetooth keyboard or mouse they want to make people fully independent of their caretakers this sounds lofty but has already been done before with a technology called the Utah Rae with only just a hundred electrodes patients are able to text other people.

Control tablets with their mind remember the neuralink has thousands of electrodes resulting in a cleaner more reliable signal for more complex applications the first application for the neuralink is to tap into the primary motor cortex the part of the brain that sends signals down to the spinal cord.

Finally, it could be used to restore movement of someone’s own body the materials science team wants to use materials or properties that would make the brain not only accept the neuralink but think that it’s part of itself the team has already released a paper of reading recording and studying data from brains using their n1 chip it’s fairly controversial but early tests on monkeys have been successful we wish that we didn’t have to work with animals right that we just wish that wasn’t like a step in the process.

FDA approval

We try to be very careful and thoughtful about it and do it as efficiently as possible because we believe that the benefit to humanity is is in the end like about the benefits outweigh the negatives.

you know monkey has been able to control the computer with his brain just yeah why I didn’t really start running that result today but there it goes human patient trials are set to start by the end of 2020 the target patient will be a quadriplegic due to a spinal cord injury the main hurdle so far has been FDA approved for implantable devices so the future of neuralink will be in three stages Stage one is to understand.

Three full brain machine interfaces in the future that could even be a kind of app store for programs that you can download and control your brain other possibilities from the presentation include a new kind of communication kind of like telepathy or downloading the memories of someone who’s familiar with a city so that when you go to that city you feel familiar with it too the possibility is a kind of endless but of course these are the very early days.

We hardly understand anything about the brain right now although what Elon Musk’s Neuralink is basing itself off has already been done in the medical field for decades what they’re proposing is a giant leap above all of that.

deep brain stimulation

It’s going to be a long road to get there says some obvious questions remain is this ethical should we do this what about the risks well for that last one in terms of risks for Parkinson’s deep brain stimulation.

Other such procedures seem to be much riskier though there’s not a lot known about what the kind of technology that neuralink is proposing could lead to in its full form so what do you guys think do you think it’s an interesting idea.

It should be pursued or do you have some kind of reservations I’m gonna leave my opinion out of this one let me know in the comment section below so thanks for watching I hope you learned something from this it’s definitely an interesting time we’re living in at the moment.

other Neuralink related interesting stuff

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