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Has Neuralink's First Human Brain Implant Run into Trouble?

Updated: May 14


Elon Musk’s company, Neuralink, reported on Wednesday that part of its brain implant encountered a malfunction after being implanted in a human patient for the first time.

Neuralink has developed a brain-computer interface (BCI), called the Link, which could enable individuals with paralysis to control external devices using only their thoughts. The device reads brain signals through 1,024 electrodes across 64 "threads," each thinner than a human hair.

In January, the company implanted the Link in a 29-year-old patient, Noland Arbaugh, to assess its safety. In March, they streamed a video of Arbaugh using the device, and an April blog post mentioned that the surgery was highly successful.

However, in the following weeks, Neuralink reported that several threads retracted from Arbaugh’s brain, reducing the number of working electrodes and hindering the ability to measure the Link's speed and accuracy.

The exact number of threads that retracted was not disclosed, and the company did not respond immediately to CNBC's request for comments.

To address the issue, Neuralink updated the software algorithm, improved the user interface, and refined the technique to translate brain signals into cursor movements. Although the company considered removing the implant, the problem did not pose an immediate safety risk to Arbaugh, according to The Wall Street Journal. Neuralink shared its blog post after being asked about the issue.

Despite some retracted threads, Arbaugh is still using the BCI for up to eight hours a day on weekdays and as much as 10 hours a day on weekends. He described the Link as a "luxury overload," helping him reconnect with the world.

While Neuralink isn't the only company working on BCI technology, this field has been studied for decades in academic settings. However, Neuralink has much more testing to complete before seeking approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to commercialize the technology.

Key Points

Neuralink reported a malfunction in the part of its brain implant after the first-in-human procedure.

  • The company's brain-computer interface aims to assist patients with paralysis in controlling external technologies using their thoughts.

  • In January, Neuralink implanted the device in a patient named Noland Arbaugh, who is 29 years old.

  • Neuralink revealed in a blog post that several threads from Arbaugh's brain had retracted.

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Q1. What is Neuralink?

Neuralink is a company founded by Elon Musk that aims to develop brain-computer interface (BCI) technology.

Q2. What is a brain-computer interface (BCI)?

A brain-computer interface is a technology that allows communication between the brain and external devices, such as computers or prosthetic limbs, using brain signals.

Q3 How did Neuralink address the issue?

Neuralink updated the software algorithm, improved the user interface, and refined the technique for translating brain signals into cursor movements.


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