Doctors accuse Elon Musk’s Neuralink of killing, causing ‘extreme suffering’ in monkeys during brain experiments
Elon Musk’s neurotechnology company is being accused of killing or causing “extreme suffering” to nearly two dozen monkeys during “invasive brain experiments” from 2017 to 2020.
On Thursday, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine — a research and advocacy nonprofit with more than 17,000 doctor members — filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture against the University of California, Davis regarding “deadly monkey experiments” performed at Neuralink.
According to the committee, UC Davis received more than $1.4 million from Neuralink to carry out the experiments.
In the complaint, which is based on more than 500 pages of “disturbing documents,” PCRM noted that UC Davis and Neuralink staff didn’t provide adequate care to dying monkeys, and also used an unapproved substance in the experiments.
The substance, Bioglue, allegedly killed the macaque monkeys used in the experiment by destroying portions of their brains.
“UC Davis may have handed over its publicly-funded facilities to a billionaire, but that doesn’t mean it can evade transparency requirements and violate federal animal welfare laws,” Jeremy Beckham, the committee’s research advocacy coordinator said in a statement
“The documents reveal that monkeys had their brains mutilated in shoddy experiments and were left to suffer and die. It’s no mystery why Elon Musk and the university want to keep photos and videos of this horrific abuse hidden from the public,” Beckham added.
According to the complaint, at least 23 rhesus macaque monkeys were used in the project, titled “Development of a Large-Scale Brain-Machine Interface in Rhesus Macaques.”
Some of them experienced “multiple major survival surgical procedures” in which electrodes were implanted into the brains of at least 10 animals.
The monkeys also underwent “head fixation,” when researchers allegedly used either a head-post implant or what the lab referred to as “pillows” to keep the animal’s head immobile during periods of “prolonged restraint.”
Some of the monkeys were restrained to a chair for up to five hours per day, the committee alleges. Some of them also underwent fatal procedures, including a “device explant.”
According to the complaint, which was reviewed by the Daily News, one 11-year-old monkey “was killed” in July 2018. Prior to “being used in this fatal procedure,” records indicated that the monkey had been on antidepressants and had chronic diarrhea and poor appetite.
Another 11-year-old monkey who “was killed in a terminal procedure” in March 2019, had been subject to a cranial implant that had been surgically placed inside the animal’s brain about three months earlier.
In October 2018, UC Davis staff noted that the monkey was “missing multiple digits [on] both hands, [right] foot,” possibly from self-mutilation or some other unspecified trauma.
The committee says that UC Davis has refused to release photos and videos of the experiments, claiming that the records belong to Neuralink, a private company not subject to California’s Public Records Act.
PCRM argues that work that has been conducted in public facilities is subject to the California Public Records Act and, as such, must be disclosed.
“UC Davis cannot shield a private company from public scrutiny,” said Deborah Dubow Press, an attorney with the Physicians Committee. “Photos and videos of animals housed and experimented on in a public institution are public records. Neuralink can’t avail itself of public resources but evade public accountability,” she added.
Neuralink was founded in 2016 by the Tesla titan and a group of experts in areas such as neuroscience, biochemistry and robotics.
According to a description on its website, the company’s “team of exceptionally talented people” is working to create “the future of brain interfaces: building devices now that will help people with paralysis and inventing new technologies that will expand our abilities, our community, and our world.”