Prof. Dimiter Prodanov in “Business Start” ( Chip in the brain – Neuralink succeeded with robotic surgery and flexible electrodes

The company Neuralink and Elon Musk can mobilize a huge resources to achieve rapid progress. The technology to connect the human brain and a chip is not new. Neuralink’s efforts follow a tradition built over the last 20-30 years where multiple electrodes are implanted into the cerebral cortex. The electrodes are then connected to a chip where the signals are digitized and sent to a training system that tries to analyze the activity of the cerebral cortex. The goal of this technology is to be able to communicate from paralyzed patients to their environment. This was commented by Prof. Dimiter Prodanov, IICT-BAS in the program “Business Start” with host Hristo Nikolov.

“The first implantation in the cerebral cortex of a quite different probe than the Neuralink was carried out in 2004 by the company Cyberkinetics. However, the company did not have the financial and media resources that Elon Musk has. Cyberkinetics had the problem that the technology was not sufficiently developed and could not be applied to many patients.”

What is different about Elon Musk is that he correctly interpreted the difficulties that the technology experienced at the very beginning and bet a lot on robotic surgery, which is a significant achievement. There is a robot there that, within seconds to a minute, implants all the electrodes. Another significant innovation is that, unlike the previous companies, which were based on the so-called uta-ray sample, Neuralink use flexible electrodes. With them, implantation is much more difficult and they are much less traumatic for the brain. Therefore, it is assumed that a much more stable interface will be obtained – a connection between the brain and the electrodes, Prodanov also noted.

To turn this successful test into a widely used technology, more patients need to be implanted and monitored, and other companies to try to technology. This technology is not yet fully licensed, and it is part of a controlled trial that aims to show that it is safe in the long term. These patients should be monitored for at least 2-3 years to assess whether it will continue, Prodanov believes.

According to Prodanov, Neuralink and Musk will greatly develop the technology if they find defects in these implants, since each one is a significant step forward.

First of all, chip implant technology will find application in deep brain stimulation, which is indicated for Parkinson’s disease and also for obsessive-compulsive disorders. That would be the logical next step. To get permission to test, the strategy is different. They will primarily deal with paralyzed patients, as the risk-benefit ratio of the technology is better for them. That’s why everyone focuses on severe conditions such as motor paralysis as a result of trauma or stroke and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Prodanov pointed out.

Last year, the Institute of Information and Communication Technologies at BAS started a research project in the field of neurotechnology, and the laboratory is currently under construction.

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