Neuralink, Elon Musk’s company that focuses on developing brain machine interfaces, has posted a video on YouTube that appears to show a monkey navigating a cursor on the screen and using only the mind.
Pager, a 9-year-old monkey, had a Neuralink implanted about six weeks before the video was shot, the video’s nameless narrator says. He was first taught to play video games with a joystick for a reward for banana smoothie, delivered through a metal straw. While doing this, the Neuralink device recorded information about which neurons were firing – mainly learned to predict hand movements by recording which regions were firing. After learning the patterns, the Pager joystick was used to disconnect the computer. The monkey seems to keep playing the game with just the mind ̵
The first @Neuralink product will allow someone with paralysis to use a smartphone with their mind faster than someone who uses their thumb
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 9, 2021
This style of scientific publishing is unusual; Usually, videos like this supplementary material to peer-reviewed articles are published in scientific journals. These papers contain data that can be verified by other researchers. It is credible that a monkey can play video games using a brain implant – after all, a paralyzed man has already used a robotic arm and a non-Neuralink brain implant to drink beer. Pong is a classic of brain machine interface – in 2006 Matthew Nagle did a similar feat with four days of training.
In July 2019, Musk said that a monkey had already managed to control a computer with the brain and the Neuralink implant. Since then, we have seen demonstrations of Neuralink technology in pigs. Today, Musk tweeted that Neuralink can make a paralyzed person tweet faster than a person who uses their thumb 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 large neural clusters of the body, “so that, for example, paraplegics can go again.”