Development Timelines of Neurotechnologies and Related Technologies

Thanks to AJ Kourabi for research assistance.

Deep Brain Stimulators (source)

Summary: ~40 years from demonstration in humans to consistent human use, including ~20 year pause to convince FDA.

Cochlear Implants (source)

Summary: on the order of 50 years from demonstration in humans to consistent human use, but ~15 years from FDA approval in a market with demand

Intracortical electrode array BCIs (iBCIs)

Summary: ~15 years from conception to first animal studies, ~10 more years until demonstration in humans, in the 18 years since no commercial BCI has yet been FDA-approved.


Summary: ~6 years from conception to (published) sheep and ~6 years from sheep to first human.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (source)

Summary: ~9 years to development basic invention to demonstration in humans, ~12 years to get approved, widely used today but still a small fraction of neuropsychiatric treatments

Transcranial Electrical Stimulation (source)

Summary: ~6 years from popularization to DIY systems, with startups following immediately after

Prozac (fluoxetine) (source)

Summary: 15 years from synthesis to approval, followed by widespread adoption almost immediately

LSD (source)

Summary: ~5 years from synthesis to demonstration of effects in humans, ~15 years until popular use began, despite tortuous history remains widely used

Mobile phones

Summary: ~10 years from working prototype to commercial product, ~20 more years to ubiquity, with a significant inflection

Personal computers (source)

Summary: ~10 years from working prototype to mass commercial product, ~10 years to ubiquity

Breast augmentation (source)

Summary: ~30 years to becoming a standard procedure from demonstration in humans, with fairly linear growth

LASIK eye surgery (source)

Summary: ~4 years from conception to demonstration in humans, ~8 more years to become a standard procedure


The timelines above vary widely from 1 to 5 decades from conception to adoption and don’t have a consistent definition of “adoption” between them. But we can at least say that adoption seems to occur on the decade timescale, not single years.

We can also say that it would be unprecedented for a neurotechnology to have widespread adoption sooner than 10 years after its initial demonstration in humans.

The 20-year rule of thumb from conception to adoption of technologies in general seems short. An estimate of 30 years from initial demonstration in humans to adoption seems more reasonable, though it would not be surprising if any particular neurotechnology’s development timeline varied from this by 20 years in either direction.

Thanks to Sci-Hub for unspecified services.

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