Elon Musk’s Neuralink has issues with first human implant

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Neuralink, the neurotechnology company founded by Elon Musk, has reported an issue with its first human brain implant, according to a company announcement on Wednesday. The device, known as the Link, is designed to allow individuals with paralysis to control external devices with their thoughts.

In January, Neuralink implanted the Link into 29-year-old Noland Arbaugh as part of a safety trial. The device uses 1,024 electrodes and 64 threads thinner than a human hair to record neural signals. Initially, the company described the surgery and subsequent testing as “extremely well.”

However, recent weeks have seen a setback as several threads retracted from Arbaugh’s brain, reducing the number of effective electrodes and affecting the device’s performance. Despite this, Neuralink stated that the retraction has not posed a direct safety risk to Arbaugh.

To address the issue, Neuralink has adjusted the recording algorithm, improved the user interface, and refined the techniques for translating neural signals into cursor movements. The company considered removing the implant but opted not to as the situation did not threaten Arbaugh’s health.

Neuralink has emphasized that Arbaugh continues to use the BCI system extensively, approximately eight to ten hours a day, and describes the experience as a “luxury overload” that has helped him “reconnect with the world.”

The technology behind BCIs has been explored for decades in academic settings, and several companies are developing similar systems. Neuralink will need to continue extensive safety and efficacy testing to seek approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to commercialize the Link.

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