Karol Bagh | IAS GS Foundation Course | 29 May, 6 PM Call Us
This just in:

State PCS

Daily Updates


First Human Neuralink Implant

  • 06 Feb 2024
  • 4 min read

For Prelims: Brain-Computer Interface, Neuralink, Epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, Virtual and Augmented Reality, Locked-in syndrome, Potential Applications of Brain-Computer Interface.

For Mains: Ethical Considerations Related to Brain-Computer Interface

Source: TH

Why in News?

Recently, Elon Musk made a recent announcement concerning the successful implantation of a Neuralink device in a human subject.

  • The device is roughly the size of a large coin, specifically designed for implantation in the skull for brain-computer interface.
  • Neuralink has obtained approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the "investigational device exemption."

What is the Brain-Computer Interface?

  • A Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) is a technology that enables direct communication between the brain and external devices, such as computers or prosthetics, without using traditional neuromuscular pathways like nerves and muscles.
  • BCIs typically involve the use of sensors to detect brain activity, which is then translated into commands or actions, allowing individuals to control devices or interact with the external world using their thoughts.

What are the Potential Applications of Brain-Computer Interface?

  • Medical Treatments:
    • Neurological Disorders: Monitoring and treating conditions like epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, and neurodegenerative disorders by directly interfacing with the brain.
    • Stroke Rehabilitation: Assisting in motor function recovery and rehabilitation after a stroke.
  • Assistive Technology: Enabling individuals with paralysis or motor impairments to control devices, such as prosthetics, wheelchairs, or robotic limbs, using their thoughts.
    • Restoring communication for individuals with conditions like locked-in syndrome (paralyzed except for the muscles that control eye movement).
  • Mental Health Monitoring: Providing real-time data for monitoring and managing mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety.
  • Virtual and Augmented Reality Interaction: Enhancing virtual and augmented reality experiences by allowing users to interact with digital environments using their thoughts.

What are the Ethical Considerations Related to Brain-Computer Interface (BCI)?

  • Privacy Concerns: BCIs can potentially decode thoughts and emotions. Unauthorised access to this information raises concerns about cognitive privacy.
    • As with any technology that involves the collection and storage of sensitive data, there are risks of hacking and unauthorised access to the brain data, which could lead to identity theft or other malicious uses.
  • Neurosecurity: There is a risk that BCIs could be manipulated to unauthorised control or manipulation of a person's thoughts or actions.
  • Equity and Accessibility: Critics argue that BCIs could exacerbate existing social inequalities if only specific socioeconomic groups can afford the technology due to its high cost and may lead to a situation of "cognitive divide."
  • Medical and Therapeutic Applications: Distinguishing between therapeutic uses of BCIs and threats to normal cognitive function is subjective.

Way Forward

  • Towards Neuroethics and Neuroprivacy: Establishing ethical frameworks that define therapeutic and assistive applications of BCI and addressing privacy, security, and consent issues associated with it.
  • Transparency and Informed Consent: Foster transparent communication about the capabilities, limitations, and potential risks of BCIs to ensure users are well-informed.
  • Equitable Access: Implement initiatives to bridge the digital and cognitive divides, ensuring that BCIs are accessible to individuals from diverse backgrounds, especially those facing physical and mental disabilities.
  • Education and Awareness: Provide education and training for researchers, healthcare professionals and the general public to ensure ethical practices.
SMS Alerts
Share Page