Elon Musk has revealed that a patient has become the first human being to have a Neuralink microchip implanted in the brain.
The billionaire said late Monday that his startup Neuralink had successfully performed a craniectomy to place the device in the unidentified person on Sunday.
He announced the product, called “Telepathy,” and hopes it will allow users with disabilities like Stephen Hawking to “communicate faster than an auctioneer.”
Musk said it will “enable control of your phone or computer, and through them, almost any device, just by thinking.”
It comes less than a year after Neuralink gained clearance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to operate on humans, a critical milestone for the startup.
Musk announced Monday that the first person had received a Neuralink brain implant.
Musk wrote on X on Monday night: ‘The first human received a @Neuralink implant yesterday and is recovering well. “Initial results show promising neuronal spike detection.”
He said the device “allows you to control your phone or computer, and through them, almost any device, just by thinking.”
He added: ‘The initial users will be those who have lost the use of their limbs. Imagine if Stephen Hawking could communicate faster than a speedy typist or auctioneer. That’s the goal.”
The company aims to implant microchips in the brains of paralyzed people and allow them to move their bodies using their thoughts.
Neuralink announced in September that it would soon begin a human trial to evaluate the safety of its implant.
No details of the patient were given, but Ashlee Vance, who wrote a 2015 biography, ‘Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future,’ he wrote in a Bloomberg report that the ideal candidate for Neuralink’s first human trial was “an adult under 40 years of age whose all four limbs are paralyzed.”
Vance explained that it would take a surgeon “a couple of hours” to perform a craniectomy and another 25 minutes for a robot to insert the chip into the area of the brain that controls the hands, wrists and forearms.
“The goal is to demonstrate that the device can safely collect useful data from that part of the patient’s brain, a key step in Neuralink’s efforts to convert a person’s thoughts into a series of commands that a computer can understand,” Vance added.
Vance said the implant would transmit this information to a nearby laptop or tablet.
During the human trial, a robot developed by the company will surgically place the implants’ “ultra-fine” threads that help transmit signals into participants’ brains, the company said.
Vance, who said he had visited Neuralink’s facilities 10 times in three years, also revealed how Musk had pressured his company to protect itself from the threat of similar brain and computer startups, Synchron and Onward.
Both have already begun human testing, prompting the billionaire to rage last year that the two companies were “currently kicking our butts.”
In response, he is said to have told Neuralink that he needed to pick up the pace “as if the world was coming to an end,” according to Vance.
Reuters reported in June that the company was valued at up to $5 billion, based on private stock trading.
Neuralink, however, has been plagued by controversy in recent years, having sparked ethical concerns and generated skepticism among neuroscientists and other experts.
Safety concerns meant the company struggled for a time to obtain the necessary approval for human trials, particularly with the FDA.
The main problems had to do with the device’s lithium battery; the possibility of implant wires migrating within the brain; and the challenge of safely removing the device without damaging brain tissue.
The FDA subsequently granted approval in May, but did not disclose how its initial concerns were resolved.
Despite the controversy, Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, has big ambitions for Neuralink, saying the company will facilitate rapid surgical insertions of its chip devices to treat conditions such as obesity, autism, depression and schizophrenia.
It could also allow web browsing and telepathy.
However, even if the device proves safe for human use, it could take more than a decade for Neuralink to gain approval to market it, experts warned.
Where it will go: The study will use a robot to surgically place a brain-computer interface (BCI) implant in a region of the brain that controls movement, Neuralink added. Pictured is a scan showing the implant in an animal’s brain.
Monkey with Neuralink chip implanted in its brain seen playing
Experts say brain implants will require extensive testing to overcome technical and ethical challenges if they are to become widely available.
Musk’s company, which was founded only in 2016, has repeatedly overestimated the speed with which it delivers on its promises.
Neuralink initially wanted to start inserting chips into humans in 2020, before postponing it to 2022. It finally happened in 2024.
There was also a warning from one of the company’s executives in response to Musk’s demands.
Referring to the fate of SpaceX’s first rocket launches, Shivon Zilis, director of special projects at Neuralink and mother of two of Musk’s children, told Vance: “We can’t fly the first three. That’s not an option here.’