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AI Inside: Brain Chips Pioneering the Next Leap in Human Evolution

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Human Brain

Brain chips are no longer science fiction. They have become a reality and are transforming lives thanks to technological advancements, which allow a computer to decode brain signals, deduce human intentions, and finally enact them directly through a machine.

These systems that are making it possible are called BCI or a brain-computer interface, which studies signals from brain activity. Neuralink is the most well-known company in this field, creating a generalized brain interface to unlock human potential.

But while BCIs have been in development since the 1960s, recent advancements in AI are helping achieve miracles. These advancements have led to significant strides in practical applications, particularly for people with disabilities, showcasing the evolving impact of this technology.

Current Applications and Breakthroughs

While BCI development is still primarily confined to the research laboratory, with the evolution of AI, we've begun to see the demonstration of BCI practicality in people with disabilities.

AI Brain Implants Restoring Speech & Movement

With about 1.3 billion of the world's population living with moderate to severe levels of disability, AI implants in humans are improving rapidly to completely remove these limitations.

In a pair of studies published in the journal Nature, researchers from Stanford University and the University of California San Francisco showed that their BCIs have allowed two women with paralysis to speak again with unprecedented speed and accuracy. The BCIs read speech-related brain activity and feed the data into a language learning model, which is then output in usable speech via computer-generated voice or on-screen text.

Stanford researchers implanted popcorn-kernel size electrode arrays onto 68-year-old Pat Bennet's speech motor cortex of the brain which then interfaces with computer software that allows her to speak. Meanwhile, UCSF researchers gave 30-year-old Ann, who's severely paralyzed, the ability to speak and make facial expressions (through a digital avatar). Both research recorded huge improvements in vocabulary size, speed of language decoding, and accuracy of speech.

Combining AI & Microelectronics to Fight Brain Disorders

AI, along with neural implants, is also being used to treat disorders such as epilepsy and Parkinson's by modulating abnormal activities directly. The University of Toronto brought together electrical and computer engineers along with clinicians, neuroscientists, and data material scientists to improve brain health and chart alternative treatment paths.

By using deep learning, the team extracts deep-level information, even identifying hidden biomarkers, and then activates the neural implants at the optimal time. The idea is to use neuromodulation therapies in the future to target:

  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Dementia
  • Alzheimer's
  • Sleep disorders

Neuralink's Human Trial

Musk's brain-chip startup, Neuralink, has finally received approval to begin its first human trial. Previously, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) raised safety concerns for its first-in-human clinical trial before giving clearance, and the company has now also been approved by an independent review board to begin recruitment.

For its PRIME (Precise Robotically Implanted Brain-Computer Interface) study, Neuralink is looking for patients with paralysis due to cervical spinal cord injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The trial, which is expected to take about six years to complete, will involve surgically placing a wireless BCI implant in the brain to assess the system's ability to enable patients to control external devices with their thoughts.

With the Neuralink AI brain chip, Musk aims to facilitate speedy surgical insertions of its chip devices to treat conditions like autism, depression, and schizophrenia. So far, the company has been testing on animals, but now it's recruiting paralyzed volunteers to improve the quality of life for millions.

Technological and Scientific Advances

Over the last many decades, groundbreaking research has been conducted in the field of BCI, which provides a direct communication link between the brain and a computer. Now, AI has taken it even further through its ability to analyze complex data and generate human-like output from it.

While speech implants have been crucial for individuals who have lost their speech abilities due to paralysis or other injuries, they have been extremely slow and not articulate. However, significant advances in neuroscience and modern computing together are now making it possible to have commercially available AI chip implants to restore sensory and movement functions.

Today, this marvel of modern technology is giving those who have lost the ability to speak a voice by converting brain signals into text, that too with speed and efficiency. In the Stanford research, the team had just a 9.1% word error rate, which is 2.7x more accurate than previous BCIs. This was achieved by using an algorithm that decodes 62 words per minute and is approaching the conversational speed of 160 words per minute, which is simply incredible. For this, the study tapped into the largest vocabulary library used for speech decoding using an implant — at roughly 125,000 words.

A new study, a part of the BrainGate2 Neural Interface System trial, meanwhile, used a type of deep learning called recurrent neural networks (RNNs), which are also used to model brain processes like memory, attention, and perception. The algorithm easily separated different types of facial movements for speech based on neural signals alone with over 92% accuracy.

Given that decoding behavior or cognitive state from neural signals is critical for BCI research, deep learning has emerged as the method in many machine learning tasks such as image segmentation and speech recognition. Its success has led to its usage in predicting common outputs, including movement, speech, and vision.

In another case, scientists developed a noninvasive AI system called a semantic decoder, which was developed in part by using a transformer model similar to those that support chatbots ChatGPT and Google's Bard. Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin trained the system, which requires no surgical implants, by listening to several hours of podcasts within an fMRI scanner. It then generates a stream of text when the participant is listening to or imagines telling a new story.

As we saw here, the use of AI has been really helping neuroscience research immensely. However, there are certain considerations that must be taken when dealing with this fast-moving space.

Click here to learn about the next blockbuster therapies for curing neurological disorders.

Ethical, Privacy, and Safety Considerations

Given the life-altering changes AI-brain implants have for humans, we have been seeing a rapid advancement of neurotech and AI brain chips. However, it is not without its risks.

To put it simply, AI systems are prone to errors and malfunctions, just like any other technology, which can have potentially harmful outcomes. Built on complex algorithms that process vast amounts of data, AI systems are also vulnerable to hacking and manipulation. Not to mention, the data they are trained on can have inherent biases leading to discriminatory outcomes.

The increased investment in AI-based programs that can read people's minds and store neural data has the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) sounding an alarm on the advancing neurotechnology, which it said threatens human rights and requires global regulation.

“The promise . . . may come at a high cost in terms of human rights and fundamental freedoms, if abused. Neurotechnology can affect our identity, autonomy, privacy, sentiments, behaviors, and overall well-being.”

– said Gabriela Ramos, Unesco assistant director-general for social and human sciences.

As a result, the UN's scientific and cultural organization said that it will begin to develop a “universal ethical framework” for neurotechnology.

While Ramos is concerned about the technology changing “the very essence of what it means to be human,” others like Mariagrazia Squicciarini, lead author of a Unesco report on the rapid pace of innovation in neurotechnology is concerned about the addition of AI, which according to her puts “neurotechnology on steroids.”

It is estimated that private investments in neurotech companies have increased over 20x in the decade from 2010, reaching $7.3bn in 2020, while patents related to neurotech surged 266% during this period. Data shows that the market for neurotech devices is projected to exceed $24bn in the next four years.

With advanced AI models needing decoding of the brain data, regulation proponents argue that mental privacy has also become more urgent than ever. As we are seeing in China, workers wear caps that scan their emotional states, indicating a broad spectrum of applications for this technology. Similarly, in the US, the military is exploring such technologies to enhance mental skills, control objects with thoughts, and make soldiers more fit for duty.

Ethical concerns have also been raised regarding BCI's impact on society. Many fear giving unprecedented access to people's brains could make dystopian possibilities a reality.

Companies working in AI Brain Implants Space

Now, let's take a look at some of the most prominent companies in the AI brain chip space:

1. Neuralink

Neuralink’s Clinical Trial: The PRIME Study

Billionaire entrepreneur Musk-founded company is developing wireless implants that can read brain waves. Most recently, Neuralink reported raising an additional $43 million, led by Peter Thiel's Founders Fund.

Back in June, the company was valued at about $5 bln, with its estimated annual revenue being $115.7 million per year. In Nov. 2023, US lawmakers asked the SEC to investigate Neuralink for omitting details about the deaths of animals in trials. As for the Neuralink brain chip release date, Musk says it is still years away.

2. Synchron

Rodney & Phil Use Our Brain Computer Interface

The New York-based Synchron aims to offer implantable endovascular neuromodulation therapy. Earlier this year, the company published the results of its study to evaluate the efficacy and feasibility of Synchron Switch in patients with severe paralysis.

The device is introduced into the brain's blood vessel, from where it transmits neural signals over a long period but without any adverse effects. Synchron is backed by Bezos and Gates and has raised a total of $135.7 mln, as per CB Insights. The company has an estimated annual revenue of $37.3 mln per year.

3. Blackrock Neurotech

Welcome to Blackrock Neurotech

This privately held company is known for its neurotechnology solutions, including BCI systems. Last year, Blackrock Neurotech announced a record-breaking milestone of 30,000 days of in-patient BCI research, which, according to its co-founder and Chairman Florian Solzbacher, means “the technology is ready to move out of the lab and into patients' homes.”

It secured $10 million in funding, attracting high-profile investors like Christian Angermayer's re.Mind Capital, Peter Thiel, Tim Sievers, and Sorenson Impact's University Venture Fund II in 2021.

4. BrainGate

Research consortium BrainGate has created a brain implant that contains a cluster of 100 spiky electrodes that is surgically embedded into the brain. Its BCI system is designed to allow those with paralysis to control robotic limbs or computers through their thoughts. Braingate's ultimate goal is to restore mobility, communication, and independence for people with tetraplegia.

5. Precision Neuroscience

In June, Precision Neuroscience, which was founded by co-founder of Neuralink, conducted its first clinical study to map human brain signals. Their flagship BCI system is the Layer 7 Cortical Interface, which is an electrode array and thinner than human hair.

Earlier this year, the company that aims to build minimally invasive BCI implants using cranial micro-slit technique raised $41 million, bringing its total funding to $53 million in under two years.

6. Kernel

Kernel Flow Teardown

Founded by Bryan Johnson, the company's noninvasive BCI technology is called “Kernel Flow,” which monitors brain activity using time domain-functional near-infrared spectroscopy (TD-fNIRS).

According to its website, Kernel Flow is a portable and multimodal neuroimaging headset that takes minutes to set up. The headset combines high-resolution optical hemodynamic imaging with EEG measures to provide multimodal data for comprehensive insights.

7. Neurable

This company provides BCI systems for clinical as well as gaming applications. Its noninvasive, EEG-based BCI technology aims to improve human-computer interaction in AR and VR environments.

#8. Ctrl-labs

A developer of noninvasive neural interface technology, the startup was acquired by Mark Zuckerberg's Meta (formerly Facebook) in a deal estimated to be valued at $1 billion. Back in 2018, the company released its electrode-studded wristband for BCI. Meta's aim is to ultimately give people the ability to control keyboards and more with just their thoughts.

Future Prospects and Challenges

AI brain implants have emerged as a powerful tool in neuroscience with the potential to transform our understanding of the brain as well as revolutionize treatments. While the technology is already seeing great success in restoring lost functionality, its implications are far greater.

US military-funded researchers have been developing systems to capture brain signals and autonomously activate neural pathways as a treatment for mental health disorders. Preliminary trials of ‘closed-loop' brain implants began back in 2017 and detected patterns related to mood disorders and then shocked the brain back to a healthy state without needing a physician.

In addition to restoring sensory functions, brain chips help in prosthetic limb control and treating abnormal brain activity. Moreover, neurofeedback in real-time allows individuals to gain greater control over their mental states and actively regulate their own emotions and behaviors. Researchers have also started exploring the possibility of brain-to-brain communication to allow for direct and seamless exchanges of information.

Another way AI chips can truly change the landscape is by enhancing cognitive abilities. The technology can be used to augment brain functioning for even those people who do not have any therapeutic needs. By directly interfacing with and stimulating specific brain regions, these AI chips in the brain can potentially augment focus, memory, and learning capabilities.

While these chips offer new avenues for human augmentation, it is vital to address the ethical considerations associated with accessibility and privacy.

According to the Pew Research Center survey 2022, 78% of Americans said they would not want a computer chip implant, with only 20% being interested. This hasn't changed much from five years ago when two-thirds of Americans said they wouldn't want a chip for a “much-improved ability to concentrate and process information” implanted in their brain. But if AI brain chip use becomes widespread, six-in-ten US adults think most people would feel pressured to get an implant, as per the new survey.

As for potential problems with computer chip implants, 52% pointed to hackers gaining access to people's information, while unwanted changes to the brain and chip malfunctions were among prominent issues. Acknowledging these risks, 83% of Americans want these implants to be tested using a higher standard than is used for medical devices.

This shows the need for having the right balance to unlock the remarkable potential of AI brain chips while safeguarding the health, safety, and core values of individuals and society as a whole.

Click here for the list of ten best biotech stocks.


Brain-computer interface technology assisted with language learning AI is helping process brain data at astonishing rates, making it possible for disabled people to finally be able to speak and move. Even mind-reading implants are now inching closer to reality.

The Future of Brain Implants

While the technology holds tremendous promise, at the same time, the ethical, privacy, and safety risks of AI chips in humans demand careful consideration. Companies need to apply rigorous testing, offer complete transparency, and perform continuous monitoring while adhering to ethical guidelines in order to harness the true potential of the technology.

Overall, the potential applications of AI-powered brain chips are vast, and their implications are profound.

Click here to learn all about investing in artificial intelligence.

Gaurav started trading cryptocurrencies in 2017 and has fallen in love with the crypto space ever since. His interest in everything crypto turned him into a writer specializing in cryptocurrencies and blockchain. Soon he found himself working with crypto companies and media outlets. He is also a big-time Batman fan.