Elon Musk, the billionaire chief executive of Tesla and SpaceX, claims another of his companies has wired up a monkey’s brain to ” play video games with his mind”.
Neuralink Corporation, which Mr Musk owns, previously claimed to have implanted coin-sized wireless sensors inside the brains of two pigs, describing the sensors as “a Fitbit in your skull with tiny wires”.
In a speech on the private social app Clubhouse on Sunday evening, the entrepreneur said Neuralink has “a monkey with a wireless implant in their skull with tiny wires” which it is testing its technology on.
“You can’t see where the implant is and he’s a happy monkey,” Mr Musk added, before stating that a further announcement would be made in the coming months.
The billionaire told people on the call that an inspector from the US Department of Agriculture described the company’s laboratory as “the nicest monkey facility” they had ever examined.
“We went the extra mile for the monkeys,” Mr Musk said.
“One of the things we’re trying to figure out is whether we can have the monkeys playing mind pong with each other? That would be pretty cool.”
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The tiny implant the company has developed has more than 3,000 electrodes, attached to flexible threads measuring about a tenth of the size of a hair, capable of monitoring about 1,000 neurons.
The ultimate aim is to create a brain-computer interface, and it is being trialled in order to treat people with brain and spinal injuries.
Neuralink’s head surgeon, Dr Matthew MacDougall, said the first trials would focus on patients with paralysis or paraplegia, although he has not provided a date for when these trials would start.
According to the company, the technology could contribute to finding a cure for neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s, dementia and spinal cord injuries.
Mr Musk said last year that the implantable device could “actually solve these problems”, also mentioning memory loss, hearing loss, depression and insomnia.
Some of the more conceptual ideas touted by Mr Musk are not yet considered feasible by scientists, including a kind of “save state” in the brain.
“So if you were to die your state could be returned in the form of another human body or a robot body,” he said. “You could decide if you want to be a robot or a person or whatever.”