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LATEST NEWS

  • Marijan Hassan - Tech Journalist

Neuralink’s first brain chip implant developed a problem but company has found a workaround


Elon Musk's brain-computer interface company, Neuralink, encountered a setback with its first human trial. Weeks after implanting the chip in participant Noland Arbaugh, some of the device's connecting threads retracted from his brain. This issue reduced the implant's data transmission and effectiveness.



Neuralink hasn't disclosed the exact cause of the detachment but said they've enhanced the implant's sensitivity, producing better performance than before.


“In the weeks following the surgery, a number of threads retracted from the brain, resulting in a net decrease in the number of effective electrodes. This led to a reduction in BPS. In response to this change, we modified the recording algorithm to be more sensitive to neural population signals, improved the techniques to translate these signals into cursor movements, and enhanced the user interface,” the blog read. “These refinements produced a rapid and sustained improvement in BPS, that has now superseded Noland’s initial performance.”


Arbaugh, a quadriplegic since a 2016 diving accident, is the first person to receive Neuralink's implant. The surgery, part of the PRIME Study (Precise Robotically Implanted Brain-Computer Interface), took place in January.


According to a 2023 Neuralink blog post, the study aims to assess the safety of the implant and its surgical robot, as well as the device's functionality. The initial goal is to enable participants to control computer cursors or keyboards using only their thoughts.


Earlier reports from Musk indicated Arbaugh's ability to control a computer mouse with his brain after receiving the implant.


Neuralink's long-term vision is to use these implants for brain-computer connections. This technology could allow paralyzed individuals to control devices like smartphones or computers, or even restore sight to blind people. Similar to existing brain-machine interfaces, Neuralink's implant would translate electrical brain signals into actions.


The first product, codenamed Telepathy, is intended for those who have lost limb function, according to previous statements by Musk. "Imagine Stephen Hawking communicating even faster than an auctioneer," Musk said, outlining the potential of the technology.


Widespread consumer access to this technology remains distant. Regulatory approval beyond the current trial clearance by the Food and Drug Administration is necessary before Neuralink's brain implants become commercially available.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the issue with Arbaugh's implant, and Neuralink has informed the FDA.

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