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Monkey brain chip research involving Neuralink, a company co-founded by Elon Musk, sparks fire in California

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Pager, a nine-year-old macaque, is seen playing the video game Pong using only his brainwaves after chips from the company co-founded by Elon Musk called Neuralink were implanted in both sides of his brain.

Neuralink/CBS San Francisco


Critics are concerned about medical research being conducted at the University of California, Davis on live monkeys involving a company co-founded by Elon Musk called Neuralink, reports CBS San Francisco.

For several years, more than 20 monkeys from the UC Davis Primate Center have been used in research to treat brain disorders. Neuralink’s product is a computer interface that can be implanted into a brain to control motor function.

Pager, a 9-year-old macaque, had a Neuralink chip placed on either side of his brain. With it, Pager was able to play the video game Pong using only his brainwaves.

“If you know someone who’s had a broken neck or spine, we can fix that with a chip,” Musk previously said of Neuralink.

The researchers used UC Davis primates to see if the experimental concept would work.

“You have to test it and you have to make sure it’s as safe as possible before you use it in a human subject,” said Jim Newman of Americans for Medical Progress.

Opponents of the research say primates are subjected to abusive experiments that sometimes end in death.

“Neuralink gave UC Davis $1.4 million over two-and-a-half years to open monkey skulls and implant these devices,” said Ryan Merkley of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

“I am absolutely devastated, mad and angry because money should not be able to take over the lives of animals and harm them,” said animal rights activist Linda Middlesworth.

A lawsuit has been filed against the university demanding that the research documents be made public and a complaint has been filed with federal authorities.

“To us, it’s very clear that these were animal welfare law violations,” Merkley said.

UC Davis responded in a statement saying, “We strive to provide the best care possible for the animals in our care. Animal research is strictly regulated and UC Davis complies with all applicable laws and regulations.”

It’s a legal battle of conflicting opinions on cutting-edge medical research.

“This technology is extremely promising,” Newman said.

“There’s no need to subject animals to these invasive, deadly experiments,” Merkley said.

The primate center has had several fatal accidents with monkeys in the past. Seven baby primates died in 2018 from accidental poisoning. In 2016, a primate died after trying to escape, and in 2013 another died after being trapped in its cage.

UC Davis says its collaboration with Neuralink ended in 2020.