The human brain is believed to be the most complex biological structure to exist. While science does not fully understand the brain yet, research in the emerging field of neuroscience has made progress.
In the Milky Way galaxy, neuroscientists have made extensive advances in understanding the vastly complex functions of the brain''s 85 billion or so neurons and the 100 trillion connections between them.
Neuralink, a Silicon Valley startup founded by Elon Musk, has developed a neuroprosthetic device called a brain-computer interface, which is expected to cure tinnitus, the neurological condition that causes ringing in your ears within five years. But is this possible? A coin-sized Neuralink device, called a Link, is implanted flush with the skull by a precision surgical robot. Each thread is a quarter the diameter of a human hair.
For continuous communication back and forth, the device connects to an external computer via Bluetooth.
People with paraplegia, quadriplegia, Parkinson''s disease, and epilepsy may benefit from Neuralink therapy.
Neuralink has employed top-class neuroscientists from academia and the whole research community since its founding in 2016. This initiative is designed to help treat these conditions.
In April 2021, Neuralink''s monkey may play Pong with his mind. Using a powerful proof-of-concept video, a nine-year-old macaque monkey called Pager successfully played Pong with his mind, posing a game of him through an implanted Neuralink device.
Pager was shown how to play Pong using a joystick. After making a correct move, he''d receive a glass of banana smoothie.
The Neuralink implant spotted electrical activity in his brain as he played, revealing which neurons regulated which movements.
Pager was able to play the game without losing the joystick until the game was sat down.
Human trials to develop the Neuralink prototype will begin towards the end of 2022, unless the Food and Drug Administration has approved it.
Elon Musk claims that the Neuralink technology might cure tinnitus by 2027.
In the absence of an external source, Tinnitus is a neurological condition that manifests as a ringing or buzzing in the ears.
Tinnitus is a common condition, which occurs when the nerve that connects the inner ear with the brain, known as the vestibulocochlear nerve, is damaged due to prolonged loud noise, injury, or deficiencies in blood supply.
A cure for tinnitus has proven to be unattainable. In the current situation, masking the sound or learning to ignore it
The Neuralink prosthesis connects to the cerebral cortex, the surface layer of the brain. This is where the device can remove damage to the brain''s ability to process motor sensory input or output.
Is Musk''s claim credible? These statements might appear grandiose. Yet the foundation of the research isn''t necessarily contested.
When the first cochlear implant was placed in a person with impaired hearing, neural implants have been delivering care to people for many years.
According to scientists, the device might help with chronic fatigue, repair brain damage, and treat disorders such as autism or degenerative disorders.
"We are on the verge of a complete paradigm shift," says Paul Nuyujukian, the head of the Stanford University Brain Interfacing Laboratory. Not just for stroke, paralysis, and motor degenerative disease, but also for almost every other type of brain degeneration." The FDA has categorised Neuralink as a class III medical device, the riskiest category. Before human trials begin, Neuralink must meet FDA regulations.
To be approved, the company must provide extensive clinical trials data from non-human test subjects (such as Pager the monkey) to instill faith in the future. Some monkeys have died during Neuralink''s tests, and critics have raised animal welfare concerns.
The process of approval of human testing might take a long time.
The regulators will investigate possible negative implications of the device, such as depression. Also of interest will be how effective it is to remove or repair a device if it malfunctions, and how to manage the risk of brain injury or infection.
Neuralink will enlist human volunteers once the FDA has approved, and the next round of testing will begin.
The length of time it will take till the device is commercially available, and how much it will cost is anyone''s guess. It might be years and with a price tag that puts it in danger for all but the wealthy.
It''s therefore wise to avoid putting out false hopes for a reasonably priced implant in the near future.