Neuralink, Elon Musk’s company that focuses on developing brain machine interfaces, has posted a video to YouTube that appears to show a monkey navigating a cursor on the screen using only its mind.
Pager, a 9-year-old macaque, had a Neuralink implanted about six weeks before the video was recorded, the video’s unnamed narrator says. He was first taught to play video games with a joystick for a banana smoothie reward, delivered through a metal straw. While doing this, the Neuralink device recorded information about which neurons were firing – essentially learned to predict hand movements by detecting which regions were firing. After learning the patterns, the Pager joystick used to play was disconnected from the computer. It seems that the monkey continues to play the game by using only his mind ̵
First @Neuralink product allows someone with paralysis to use a smartphone with their mind faster than someone who uses thumbs
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 9, 2021
This style of scientific release is unusual; usually videos like this are supplementary material for peer-reviewed articles published in scientific journals. These papers contain data that can be verified by other researchers. It’s believable that a monkey might be playing video games using a brain implant – after all, a paralyzed man has already used a robotic arm and a non-neural brain implant to drink beer. Pong is a classic of brain machine interfaces – in 2006 Matthew Nagle performed a similar feat with four days of training.
In July 2019, Musk said a monkey had already been able to control a computer with his brain and the Neuralink implant. Since then, we have seen demonstrations of Neuralink technology in pigs. Today, Musk tweeted that Neuralink might have let a paralyzed person tweet faster than someone using their thumbs on a smartphone. A later goal, he said in a follow-up tweet, would be to send signals from Neuralinks in the brain to Neuralinks in larger body-neural clusters, “so that, for example, paraplegics can walk again.”