Through 2020, Elon Musk’s company Neuralink paid $1.4 million to the University of California, Davis, to use its facilities, where experimenters removed portions of monkeys’ skulls to implant electrodes in the animals’ brains related to the development of a “brain-machine interface.” Only in 2022, following a public records lawsuit by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, did the troubling details of these experiments begin to come to light. The company is still conducting experiments on animals at its facilities in California and Texas.
This is the story of one monkey, “Animal 11.” She was a macaque who was about 10 years old in 2018, when she was used in Neuralink experiments. Her records indicate that she was “missing multiple digits” on her hands and foot and had a history of “multiple traumas.” Studies show many monkeys in laboratories self-mutilate so severely their wounds require surgical care. Animal 11 was likely missing digits as a result of being caged with other aggressive monkeys or from self-mutilation.
In December 2018, Neuralink employees drilled holes into Animal 11’s skull and implanted electrodes in her brain using “investigational robotics.” A titanium plate and “gelfoam” were used to seal the holes created in her skull. The surgery lasted nearly 6 hours.
Almost immediately, lab staff noted that her head implants became infected, the “skin was eroded,” and that she was “scratching at left implant.” A microbial analysis showed that Animal 11 had a staphylococcus infection from her implants.
Lab staff noted that Animal 11 was continuing to pick at the implants in her head, and that the “skin appears pierced from implant.”
In January 2019, lab staff noted that there was “dark dried blood around one implant,” likely from Animal 11 continuing to pick at it.
In March 2019, lab staff sedated Animal 11 and attempted to clean the bloody, infected implants in her head. They were able to “express” some of the “purulence” (infected discharge/pus) but not all of it.
One week later, lab staff noted that the infection in her implants was persisting and that a “terminal surgery [was] planned” for later that week. A few days later, Neuralink experimenters killed Animal 11.