Physician advocacy group warns against Neuralink trials

Spinal Tech

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine on May 26 released a statement urging Elon Musk and his company Neuralink to pivot clinical trials for a brain implant.

This comes a day after Neuralink earned FDA approval to begin clinical trials on humans for the brain implant, which aims to address spinal cord injuries.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine said they want Mr. Musk and the company to look at noninvasive brain-interface options that don't come with risks of surgical complications. 

"Researchers elsewhere have already made progress to improve patient health using such noninvasive methods, which do not come with the risk of surgical complications, infections, or additional operations to repair malfunctioning implants," the statement said. "Noninvasive devices are already demonstrating the ability to improve quality of life for older adults and elderly patients, translate brain activity into intelligible speech, and assist paralyzed patients."

The group also pointed to past safety concerns during Neuralink's trials in animals. The Physicians Committee obtained internal documents about monkey experiments at the University of California Davis, which led to federal investigations. In one incident the statement detailed, a monkey suffered complications and brain bleeding after having electrodes implanted.

"Musk needs to drop his obsession with sticking a device in our heads," Ryan Merkley, director of research advocacy with the Physicians Committee, said in the statement. "If he cared about the health of patients, he would invest in a noninvasive brain-computer interface."

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