• | 2:00 pm

Neuralink says first brain implant had issues

The team shared that it made several adjustments to address the mechanical problem with the implant

Neuralink says first brain implant had issues
[Source photo: Chetan Jha/Press Insider]

Neuralink, Elon Musk’s tech startup, said on Wednesday that a mechanical problem had occurred with the implant in its first human patient, Noland Arbaugh.

Neuralink had announced its first successful human brain-chip implant back in January.

Following the surgery, some of the implanted threads connected to Arbaugh’s brain came loose. This reduced the number of working electrodes and consequently, the brain-computer interface’s (BCI) signal strength, the company said. 

The Neuralink BCI—known as the ‘Link’—aims to empower people with paralysis to control external devices using just their mind. The company’s website explains that the device records brain signals through a network of 1,024 electrodes embedded across 64 ultra-thin and highly-flexible threads, finer than human hair. According to the website, these threads are crucial in order to minimize damage during implantation and after. 

The company did not mention, however, the number of threads that had malfunctioned in Arbaugh’s case. 

The team shared in a blog post that it made several adjustments to address the problem, including increasing the sensitivity of the recording algorithm to pick up weaker signals, refining methods for translating those signals into cursor movements, and improving the user interface. 

In a video live-streamed on X (formerly Twitter) in March, Neuralink had shared details about Arbaugh’s journey following the implant. 

In the video, 29-year-old Arbaugh, paralyzed from a diving accident, could be seen playing chess with “his mind” as he maneuvered the cursor across the computer screen using his brain. 

Arbaugh had compared the experience to wielding ‘the Force’ on the cursor, drawing a comparison to the Jedi mind control from the movie series Star Wars.

The implant had also given Arbaugh the ability to perform other tasks like reading and learning new languages using the assistive technology. 

In the study progress report shared by the company on Wednesday, Arbaugh said that the experience of the device was like a “luxury overload.”

“I haven’t been able to do these things in eight years and now I don’t know where to even start allocating my attention,” he said. 

The blog post mentions that Noland dedicates a significant amount of time to the BCI system, logging close to eight hours daily, with usage even exceeding 10 hours on weekends.

More Top Stories: