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Is Neuralink by Elon Musk replacing the deep brain stimulation?

Today, deep brain stimulation, which is successfully applied in the treatment of many movement disorders, especially Parkinson's disease; promising in the treatment of diseases such as obesity, epilepsy, depression and Alzheimer's, and and Elon Musk's ambitious project Neuralink, which aims to be used in the treatment of many neurological diseases, raised the question of deep brain stimulation or Neuralink. Medipol University Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center (PARMER), Neurosurgery Specialist Dr. Ali Zırh made important statements about Neuralink, Musk's project aiming to connect the human brain to the computer.

Elon Musk's highly anticipated Neuralink chip, which is aimed to establish a direct connection between human and computer, was introduced. According to Musk's presentation, the device based on brain control with a microchip is intended to be used in the treatment of various neurological problems such as Parkinson's, memory loss, hearing deficiency, insomnia, depression, anxiety, visual impairment, paralysis, and spine injuries. Neurosurgery Specialist Dr. Ali Zırh said that ‘’ Musk's Neuralink project has been collecting information by placing electrodes of different sizes and characteristics from both the surface part of the brain and the deep regions of the brain for many years; In some cases, it is even one of the most modern examples of our brain electrification efforts and practices.’’

Stating that the brain can be stimulated in three ways, by applying electrical current, Specialist Dr. Ali Zırh said that with the method we call "Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation", we stimulate the brain by sending electromagnetic waves from outside with the help of a headpiece without opening the skull and with the method we call "Cortical Stimulation Technique", we can stimulate it by giving an electric current from the electrodes we place on the brain surface.

Providing information about "Deep Brain Stimulation", which is the third method that is used in some brain disorders, especially Parkinson's disease and allows the stimulation of the deep parts of the brain, Specialist Dr. Ali Zırh said that We can also stimulate the deep regions of the brain by placing electrodes inside the brain with the method we apply to the brain in movement disorders, especially in Parkinson's disease, dystonia and tremors, and some brain disorders, which we call "Deep Brain Stimulation". We have been using these methods successfully for years. The technology that feeds electrical current to the brain and nervous system and can be charged externally with the devices we call "neurostimulator" has recently entered clinical practice on humans.

The neurostimulators we currently use, such as Neuralink, which are placed under the skull skin and are smaller in volume, are now very close to being used in clinical practice.

"Memory transplantation is quite intriguing"

From Neuralink's vision and hearing problems to depression; Evaluation about the ability to be used in the treatment of many neurological problems from spinal cord paralysis to memory loss, Specialist Dr. Ali Zırh said that the exciting point about Neuralink, which we can name as the future version of the deep brain stimulation technology, is that we are able to make an information-transferable technology by using 1024 electrodes together today, and much more tomorrow, and we will be able to progress rapidly in collecting information from the brain. Our current realistic goal and plan should also be about collecting information and it can be realized that way. It is not yet known how we can use the information we have obtained or whether we can restore it. Today, by placing electrodes on the hearing and visual pathways of patients with hearing or vision impairment, we can stimulate these paths and contribute to their visual or auditory abilities. We know that when we can stimulate some areas in the spinal cord of patients with spinal cord paralysis or in the nerves that come out of the spinal cord and reach to the muscles, we can work the paralyzed muscles and make some movements. Our work on this subject is progressing successfully. However, the information we collect by inserting a chip into the brain, and the issue of how we can move forward with a patient with a paralysis of the spinal cord, mentioned in the interview at the end of the presentation, seems like a mystery for now. In addition to this, the method by which the information we will collect with the Neuralink project can be stored as "memory" and performed as "memory transfer" in the future is very interesting as well as remains unknown for now.

The difference between Neuralink and Deep Brain Stimulation

Referring to the difference between Neuralink and deep brain stimulation, Dr. Zırh continued his words as follows: Neuralink is placed directly in the subcutaneous in the skull and stimulates the surface of the brain with many thin electrodes. However, the deep brain stimulation we use today consist of two electrodes placed in the deep regions of the brain, extension cables connecting these electrodes to the main battery device, and electronic devices consisting of the body of the battery itself. The electrode part is placed in the brain and connected to the battery placed in the subcutaneous above the rib cage with the help of extension cables. The entire operation is performed under local anesthesia and the patients are awake, just like in Neuralink technology. However, in the system currently in use, patients are only put to sleep at the last stage of the operation so that they do not feel pain while the body of the battery is placed placed in the subcutaneous in the chest. Another difference is that the Neuralink technology device is charged every 24 hours. The deep brain stimulations used and charged today require charging every 1-2 weeks and the battery life is around 20-25 years.

29 September 2020, Tuesday