The University of California, Davis, is refusing to disclose hundreds of photographs its staff took of Neuralink’s primate test subjects, Wired reports. The company, owned by Elon Musk, is developing devices to implant in brains.
The test images might be gruesome. Wired’s story begins by recounting a 2018 U.S. Animal Welfare Act violation in which the university’s California National Primate Research Center staff waited, at a Neuralink scientist’s wishes, to euthanize a macaque monkey they saw suffering. An autopsy showed that adhesive from the implant leaked and the monkey’s brain “visibly poked out of the base of her skull,” Wired reported.
The story goes on to recount how UC Davis employees supported Neuralink, which partnered with the university from roughly 2018 to 2020, and how the institution continues to not release photos from that time.
Internal emails show the company “had tight control over what UC Davis was allowed to divulge about the experiments,” according to the story. It further says that “videos of the experiments have seemingly vanished,” that documents the publication received refer to a tape that UC Davis hasn’t acknowledged exists, and Neuralink was allowed to store and remove its own footage.
A university document “lays out the theory that viewing the images would have such a visceral impact on the public that fears of reprisal among Davis’s researchers would be detrimental to their work ethic,” Wired reported.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is suing UC Davis to obtain the records.
“The work was conducted by Neuralink researchers in our facilities,” Andy Fell, a UC Davis spokesman, told Inside Higher Ed in an email. “As we have previously said, UC Davis has fully complied with the California Public Records Act and we have supplied the vast majority of records requested by PCRM.”
Fell wrote, “All animal research at UC Davis, including contract research like that performed by Neuralink, is conducted under the same rules and regulations and overseen by the UC Davis Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.”
Neuralink didn’t respond to requests for comment Wednesday.