Neuralink, founded by Twitter owner Elon Musk, says it has received approval from the US authorities to test computer chips in the human brain. "We are pleased to announce that we have received approval from the FDA to start our first human clinical trial," Neuralink said on Thursday (local time) on Twitter. The approval of the FDA is "an important first step".

Musk had said in December at a presentation of his startup that the implants manufactured by Neuralink would make it possible to communicate directly with computers through thoughts. "Of course, we want to be extremely careful and make sure it works well before we put a device in a human," Musk said at the time.

The billionaire is known for announcing ambitious goals for his companies, some of which are then never realized. Even with Neuralink, he was initially behind his schedule: Musk had announced in July 2019 that he would be able to carry out the first tests on humans the following year.

So far only implanted in animals

So far, however, the prototypes, which are about the size of a coin, have only been implanted in animals. At Neuralink's presentation, monkeys were shown "playing" simple video games or moving a cursor on a screen with the help of the brain chip.

With the help of the interfaces, Musk wants to cure neurological diseases. The startup is currently developing additional implants to be placed in the spinal cord or eyes to restore mobility or vision. Musk's ultimate goal, however, says he is to ensure that people are not intellectually overwhelmed by artificial intelligence systems.

Neuralink isn't the only company working on brain-computer interfaces. In July, competitor Synchron announced that it was the first company to implant a corresponding chip in the brain of a US patient.