Elon Musk’s Neuralink admits to killing eight animals during brain chip tests

Neurotech start-up hopes to use brain-computer interface to allow ‘human-AI symbiosis’

Elon Musk’s brain chip start-up Neuralink has admitted to euthanising eight animals during trials of its brain chip technology, but denies accusations that it subjected monkeys to “extreme suffering”.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) complained last week about “inadequate animal care” of Neuralink’s research monkeys at the University of California’s Davis Primate Centre.

The animal rights group alleged that Neuralink committed nine violations of the Animal Welfare Act, and said it was “extremely sceptical” that the company is ready to carry out trials on human volunteers, which it plans to begin this year.

PCRM also claimed that at least 15 monkeys implanted with the brain chip died during the trials, though Neuralink said only eight were euthanised.

In a blog post published on Monday, Neuralink defended the use of animals in research, noting that “all novel medical devices and treatments” must be tested in animals before they can be ethically trialled in humans.

“At Neuralink, we are absolutely committed to working with animals in the most humane and ethical way possible,” the firm stated.

“The use of every animal was extensively planned and considered to balance scientific discovery with the ethical use of animals.”

The company shared images of the facilities its lab animals are kept in, claiming they exceed the industry regulations for living space by 150-times. Details and pictures of the monkeys’ diet were also posted to the blog, which is overseen by “a large, dedicated team of veterinarians, veterinary technicians, behaviourists, enrichment technicians, and animal care specialists”.

Neuralink also claimed that it never forced an animal to participate in a training task if it did not want to, citing a public demo in 2020 when a pig named Gertrude chose to forage through straw rather than appear on stage.

“Today, Gertie lives the farm life and spends her days lounging in the sun with her two best friends Harriet and Frieda,” Neuralink noted, claiming that she was one of several test animals that had retired to sanctuaries after completing their contribution to the study.

“At Neuralink, we are never satisfied with the current standards for animal well being and we will always push ourselves to do more for the animals that are contributing so much to humanity,” the blog concluded.

“We also look forward to a day where animals are no longer necessary for medical research.”

Neuralink admitted that eight animals were euthanised during the trials: two at “planned end dates to gather important histological data”, and six as a result of surgical complications, device failures, or device-associated infections.

Despite the incidents, Neuralink said it had never received a citation from the US Department of Agriculture inspections of its facilities and animal care programme, and is accredited by the Association for the Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) International.

Neuralink has demonstrated a monkey capable of moving a virtual paddle of Pong just by thinking about it

Recent job listings posted to Neuralink’s website suggest the startup is preparing to begin the first ever human trials of its brain-computer interface technology.

The company eventually hopes to use the technology to allow “human-AI symbiosis”, though early applications will focus on treating people with brain disorders and diseases.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in