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Neuralink’s first brain chip implant developed a problem — but there was a workaround

Neuralink’s first brain chip implant developed
Gabby Jones/Bloomberg/Getty Images Gabby Jones/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Neuralink’s first brain chip implant developed
Gabby Jones/Bloomberg/Getty Images Gabby Jones/Bloomberg/Getty Images

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Neuralink’s first brain chip implant developed: Neuralink, Elon Musk’s pioneering brain chip implant startup, encountered a setback as the first test subject experienced complications just weeks after the implantation procedure.

In a blog post, the company disclosed that several of the chip’s connective threads retracted from the brain of the subject, Noland Arbaugh, impairing the implant’s data transmission speed and effectiveness. Although Neuralink provided limited details regarding the incident, including the cause of the thread detachment, it stated that measures were taken to enhance the implant’s sensitivity, thereby optimizing its performance.

Arbaugh, Neuralink’s inaugural human patient, has been quadriplegic since 2016 following a diving accident. He underwent the chip implantation in January as part of the PRIME Study, aimed at evaluating the safety of the implant and surgical robot, as well as testing the device’s functionality.

Participants in the trial have chips surgically implanted in the brain region responsible for motor intention. These chips, installed by a robotic system, capture and transmit brain signals to an application, with the initial objective of enabling individuals to control a computer cursor or keyboard using their thoughts alone.

Approximately one month post-surgery, Musk announced that Arbaugh was able to control a computer mouse with his brain, showcasing promising early results.

Neuralink’s overarching goal is to leverage implants to establish connections between human brains and computers, potentially assisting paralyzed individuals in controlling devices or restoring sensory functions for the visually impaired. Similar to existing brain-machine interfaces, the company’s implant interprets electrical signals emitted by the brain as actionable commands.

Musk has articulated a vision where Neuralink’s initial product, dubbed Telepathy, could empower users, such as those with limb impairments, to communicate and interact with technology more efficiently. He envisions a future where individuals like Stephen Hawking could communicate at unprecedented speeds, surpassing conventional typing rates.

However, widespread access to this groundbreaking technology remains distant, pending broader regulatory approvals. While Neuralink has obtained clearance from the Food and Drug Administration for trials, the recent setback underscores the need for meticulous safety assessments and ongoing regulatory oversight.

Neuralink has promptly informed regulatory authorities, including the FDA, about the incident, underscoring its commitment to transparency and adherence to regulatory standards. As the company navigates these challenges, the pursuit of transformative advancements in brain-computer interfaces continues to captivate both scientific and public interest.


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