A group of scientists from Tsinghua University reportedthat the brain implant they developed restored the mobility of his arm to a long-paralyzed patient. It is noted that the Chinese development is less dangerous for brain tissue than Elon Musk’s Neuralink implant. The Mask implant penetrates the nervous tissue and destroys some of the nerve cells at the installation site, while the Chinese sensor is placed on top of the nervous tissue.
The other day, Elon Musk admitted that the company Neuralink performed the first operation to install a brain implant in a person’s head. The Neuralink sensor penetrates the thinnest needles into the nervous tissue of the cerebral cortex. The penetration occurs only 2 mm, but it undoubtedly destroys some of the nerve cells at the installation site.
Chinese scientists took a different path. For about 10 years, a team from Tsinghua has been developing an implant that would maintain sufficient sensitivity to brain signals and would not damage cortical neurons, which by definition cannot be redundant, since they are responsible, among other things, for memory and skills. Therefore, the Neural Electronic Opportunity sensor, or NEO, as they called their development, is placed in the epidural space between the brain and the skull. It is also filled with living tissues and vessels, but there is no nervous tissue in them.
The NEO sensor does not have its own power supply. It’s wireless. A high-frequency transmitting antenna for power transmission and a control unit, as well as a transmitter for brain signals to a smartphone or computer, are mounted on the outside of the skull. The platform works through a machine learning system that improves its abilities as rehabilitation activities progress.
The first implant was installed in the patient on October 24, 2023. Currently, scientists are observing “impressive progress”. A man who, for the last 14 years after suffering an injury, could not move his arms and legs, with the help of a brain implant, learned to control the exoskeleton element on his arm so much that he was able to eat food on his own. In December, surgery was performed on another patient, but he is still in the recovery stage.
“The next stage of the research is the development of a new active rehabilitation protocol with support for a brain-computer interface to accelerate the growth of nervous tissue at the site of damaged segments of the spinal cord,” – the university reported. Scientists will not limit themselves to treating injuries and diseases of the nervous system. In the future, they dream of connecting the brain and the computer with such an interface that one becomes a continuation of the other.