Setback for Musk’s Neuralink: First human brain implant encounters technical glitch – Times of India


NEW DELHI: Elon Musk‘s ambitious startup Neuralink has encountered a significant hiccup in its first human brain implant trial. The device, designed to help paralyzed individuals control technology through thought, began detaching from the skull of the test subject, 29-year-old Noland Arbaugh, reducing its data capture capability. This issue arose just weeks after the company showcased the device’s functionalities in a live demonstration.
Arbaugh, paralyzed from the shoulders down due to a diving accident eight years ago, was the first to undergo the implantation of Neuralink’s brain-computer interface (BCI) in January.The interface includes 1,024 electrodes across 64 threads thinner than a human hair, intended to monitor neural activity and translate it into computer commands. However, complications arose as several threads retracted from Arbaugh’s brain, leading to a decrease in the number of effective electrodes.
“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,” Neuralink said, aiming to overcome the setback. The company noted that these refinements led to a “rapid and sustained improvement” in Arbaugh’s performance, measured in bits per second (BPS), a standard metric for speed and accuracy in this technology.
The incident has sparked concerns about the long-term viability and safety of such implants, though Neuralink confirmed that the malfunction has not posed a direct risk to Arbaugh’s safety. Despite the possibility of removing the implant, the decision was made to keep it in place as adjustments appeared to rectify the issue effectively.
This event marks a crucial phase in Neuralink’s journey, which began in 2016 and gained human trial approval from the US Food and Drug Administration last year after extensive animal testing. Arbaugh remains optimistic about the technology’s impact, saying during a March livestream, “Now I can literally just lie in bed and play to my heart’s content,” until the battery of his rechargeable chip expires.
Neuralink’s efforts in pioneering brain-computer interface technology continue to draw global attention, balancing groundbreaking potential with the challenges of practical implementation.

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