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Elon Musk's Neuralink implanted its first brain chip in a human's skull. Here's what we know about the surgery.

Elon Musk's Neuralink implanted its first brain chip in a human's skull. Here's what we know about the surgery.
  • Elon Musk said Neuralink successfully implanted its first brain chip in a human.

  • The startup reportedly aims to implant the device in 11 people this year.

  • Here's everything we know about the surgery that replaces a portion of your skull.

Elon Musk said his brain-chip startup implanted its device in its first human patient on Monday.

"Initial results show promising neuron spike detection," Musk wrote on X.

The billionaire said the company's first product will be called Telepathy and will allow users to control their phone or computer "just by thinking."

The brain-computer interface startup was cofounded by Elon Musk in 2016 and aims to eventually create a device that would allow people to do anything from communicate telepathically to play games using their minds.

But first, Neuralink has said it hopes to help people with severe neurological disorders by allowing them to control devices and communicate using only their brain activity.

Neuralink received approval to begin human trials from the US Food and Drug Administration in May and opened up applications for the trial in September.

The company is looking for people with quadriplegia or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis to participate in the trial. Thousands of potential patients are lining up to receive one of Neuralink's first brain chips.

Here's what we know about the process, according to videos from the startup, as well as media reports.

The brain chip is about the size of a quarter.

Neuralink brain chip
The Neuralink chip has small threads that attach into the brain.Neuralink/YouTube

The chip records and transmits brain activity.

The device has ultra 64 ultrathin threads that extend out from the chip.

In total, the threads have more than a thousand electrodes in them.

The threads are designed to go into the brain.

The threads attached to the chip are so small their width is about 1/14th the diameter of a single strand of hair.
As pictured on Neuralink's YouTube page, the threads attached to the chip — seen at the top righthand corner — are tiny.Neuralink on YouTube

The wires are so small that their width is about 1/14th the diameter of a single strand of hair, according to the company.

The threads are too small to be implanted by a human hand.

That's where a robot comes in.

The device can only be inserted into the brain by a robot, according to Musk.

Elon Musk first unveiled the robot in 2020.
Elon Musk first unveiled the robot in 2020 that is to place the Neuralink implants.Neuralink on YouTube

The robot is able to handle the ultrathin wires, as well as implant them in a way that they avoid disrupting blood vessels in the brain, according to the company.

The robot stands eight feet tall.

Before the robot can insert the device, a human surgeon must remove a portion of the individual's skull.

Neuralink uses a robot to insert the device.
Neuralink uses a robot to insert the device, as pictured in this photo from its YouTube page.Neuralink on Youtube

Bloomberg reported that the craniectomy takes a "couple of hours."

It reportedly takes about 25 minutes for the robot to insert the device.

The robot can work with ultrathin fibers that are too small for human hands.
The Neuralink robot can work with ultrathin fibers that are too small for human hands.Neuralink on Youtube

The device replaces the portion of skull that the surgeon had removed.

Musk has said he wants the surgery to take less time and wants the company to eventually be able to perform the entire surgery without human intervention, Bloomberg reported.

In a human, the Neuralink device is designed to sit behind the ear.

Neuralink chip
The Neuralink chip sits behind the ear.Neuralink/YouTube

While the device sits behind the ear, electrodes are threaded into the brain

The battery for the brain chip currently lasts "a few hours," but Musk is aiming for it to last about 12 hours, according to Bloomberg.

The device can be recharged using a "custom baseball cap," the publication said.

Neuralink has reportedly done more than 150 implantation surgeries.

Gertrude Neuralink
Neuralink showed how the device can transmit brain activity from a pig named Gertrude during a demo in 2020.Neuralink/YouTube

The company used the robot to implant the chips into a variety of test animal subjects.

The company has used a variety of the animal test subjects, including sheep, pigs, and monkeys.

In 2021, Neuralink showed how its technology allowed a monkey to play a video game using only its mind.

Neuralink has shown how its monkeys can play pong using only their mind with the brain chip.
Neuralink has shown how its monkeys can play Pong using only their mind with the brain chip.Neuralink on YouTube

In a demo video, the monkey, Pager, played a game using a joystick that was disconnected from the game's console — meaning he was controlling the cursor using his brain signals as his arm moved, Neuralink said.

Neuralink rewarded the monkey by feeding it a smoothie through a straw attached to the computer monitor.

Neuralink has received some pushback from animal-rights activists.

Neuralink has shown has the brain chips can be recharged.
A Neuralink monkey recharged its brain implant using a recharging device that is attached to a tree.Neuralink on YouTube

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine submitted a complaint about Neuralink to the US Department of Agriculture in 2022 after obtaining more than 700 pages of documents relating to monkeys used in company research at the University of California at Davis between 2017 and 2020.

The group said the records indicated the animals had experienced "extreme suffering."

Both UC Davis and Neuralink denied the claims that the animals were mistreated. And the collaboration between UC Davis and the company ended in 2020.

"At Neuralink, we are absolutely committed to working with animals in the most humane and ethical way possible," Neuralink said in a blog post.

Have you applied to Neuralink's human trials or do you have insight to share? Reach out to the reporter from a non-work email and device at gkay@insider.com

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