Elon Musk’s brain chip company Neuralink faces animal abuse allegations | Animal wellbeing

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Elon Musk’s brain chip company Neuralink is defending itself against claims that its researchers abused monkeys when testing its products.

Neuralink – which hopes to create a revolutionary interface that would allow humans to control devices with their brains – said in a press release Monday that his research animals were “respected and honored by our team.” The company was responding to allegations that the animals were tortured and left for dead in gruesome experiments at its facilities.

In a lengthy complaint filed with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) said the research caused “extreme suffering” to its test subjects, who “had had the brains maimed in shoddy experiences and were left to suffer and die”. PCRM is a nonprofit advocacy organization that promotes plant-based diets and alternatives to animal testing.

The complaint targets a partnership between Neuralink and the University of California, Davis that ran between 2017 and 2020, in which researchers implanted a device “about the size of a quarter” into the skulls of monkey test subjects. macaque.

PCRM obtained hundreds of pages of medical records, autopsy reports and other documents related to the $1.4 million partnership through California’s open records laws. He said the documents reveal the monkeys suffered “extreme psychological distress” from the “gross surgeries”.

In the complaint, PCRM said Neuralink used a substance known as “BioGlue” that destroyed parts of the monkeys’ brains. He described animals exhibiting substantial psychological effects as a result of the experiments, including anxiety, vomiting, lack of appetite, hair loss, and self-injurious behavior, including withdrawal of their own fingers. .

Neuralink called the data cited in the complaint “misleading”, claiming in a blog post it “met and continues to meet the standards imposed by the federal government.” After the UC Davis partnership ended, Neuralink moved its work to an in-house facility.

He responded directly to claims that more than a dozen monkeys died after Neuralink procedures, saying some of them were “terminal procedures” – where living test subjects are euthanized “humanely” after the test. surgery.

Musk has previously said that Neuralink’s brain chip technology could have major implications for people with disabilities, tweeting that it would “allow a paralyzed person to tweet faster than someone using their thumb on a smartphone,” per example.

Neural Link in 2021 published a video of a monkey appearing to control a computer with its mind. The posting sparked controversy, with many noting that these videos are usually published in scientific journals and subject to peer review, allowing for more oversight and accountability.

PCRM said in its complaint that Neuralink violated Animal Welfare Act regulations and asked both UC Davis and Neuralink to be given the “maximum civil penalty available per violation.” The USDA did not immediately respond to request for comment.

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