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Do Elon Musk’s brain-decoding implants have potential? Experts say they just might

Do Elon Musk’s brain-decoding implants have potential? Independent experts consulted by STAT say they very well might.

SAN FRANCISCO — Okay, the “sewing machine” is pretty cool. But if the device that Elon Musk’s neurotechnology startup Neuralink developed to implant thousands of electrodes into brains (of rats and monkeys so far, and humans eventually) were its only accomplishment, Tuesday night’s big reveal would have been a big meh. Instead, six independent experts in the kind of brain-computer interfaces that Neuralink is developing told STAT they are impressed for the most part, though caveats abound.

“Overall, the concept is impressive and so is the progress they’ve made,” said neurobiologist Andrew Schwartz of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, a pioneer in the technology. “But a lot of this still seems to be conceptual. It’s hard to tell what’s aspirational and what they’ve actually done.”

The immediate aim of the San Francisco startup is a system enabling people who are paralyzed to use their thoughts to operate computers and smartphones. That has been done before, including by Schwartz’s group and one at Brown University, where in 2011 two tetraplegic patients who had been implanted with the “BrainGate” neural

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