Neuralink, Elon Musk’s neurotechnology company for research and development of brain and machine interfaces (BMI), implanted a brain chip in a macaque monkey that would enable it to play the game of pong, here called MindPong, with its tax ideas. With the help of BMIs, people with paralysis should later be able to use computers and move around again.
Brain activity while playing pong
In an article published by Neuralink on Friday, the company describes the experience with a nine-year-old little monkey named Pager.. The wirelessly connected BMI, N1 Link, developed by the company, was implanted in the macaque. N1 Link communicates with brain waves that, according to Neuralink, originate in the parts of the brain responsible for controlling the two halves of the body. The chip must be able to record motion potentials (pins) via 1024 electrode channels, stream and transmit them wirelessly via Bluetooth in real time.
In the first phase of the experience, Pager plays pong with a joystick – an achievement in and of itself that some people fail to achieve with the quality offered. If he controls the pong properly and plays the virtual ball again, he receives a tube feed bonus. His brain waves are measured and patterns of neural activity necessary to control the joystick. From this, the researchers created a model (decoder) that could predict the direction and speed of an impending or intended movement. Moreover, the intended movement is likely to be predicted only based on the pattern of brain activity. This intent to move can then be used to roughly implement control of the pong.
After the decoder is calibrated by play, the second stage of the experiment is playing without the joystick. Now the pager sees the game only on the screen. In order to continue to get his rewards, Pager wants to control the pong, but mentally performs only the necessary movements. The brain waves are evaluated on the basis of the previously constructed pattern and the pong paddle is moved up or down accordingly.
Neuralink says the technology is an important step in advancing the company’s long-term goals in creating functional and safe BMIs for individuals. The BMI should work wirelessly and be fully implantable. In a first step, Elon Musk, Tesla co-founder and CEO of SpaceX, wants to help paralyzed people use the computer again to regain their “digital freedom.” In the long term, more is possible, researchers like And it claims Elon Musk. For example, muscle stimuli can also be controlled with BMI so that paralyzed people can move again.
When the concept of BMI for Neuralink was first introduced in 2019, there was criticism from neurologists: They described the approach as questionable and stated that at best simple functions could be controlled by brain activities after intense training. This wouldn’t advance the science much, as many of the innovations published at the time were not new. Animal tests have also been classified as morally questionable.