100 Days Later, Neuralink’s First Human Patient Is Now Using His Brain Implant to Play Slay the Spire

The first human recipient of the Neuralink implant plays Slay the Spire, Old School RuneScape and a range of other popular games using the implant to translate his neural signals.

Elon Musk’s neurotechnology company also revealed in a new update that a number of wires carrying the implant’s electrodes had retracted from the patient’s brain, leading to a temporary drop in interface performance brain-computer (BCI).

Last January, Neuralink co-founder Elon Musk took to X to announce that the company had implanted its first “N1” brain chip into the head of a human patient as part of its PRIME study ( Precise Robotically Implanted Brain-Computer Interface). He was later revealed to be Noland Arbaugh, a 29-year-old quadripalegic American, who suffered paralysis below the shoulders after suffering a spinal injury in a diving accident there. about eight years ago.

During the operation, a circular section of the skull was removed to allow a specialized robot to access a section of Arbaugh’s brain. The robot used a needle thinner than a human hair to insert a collection of 64 ultra-thin electrode-carrying wires into the gray matter. These newly installed sensors are designed to detect the patient’s neural signals and send the resulting data through the wires to the main body of the N1 implant, which had been installed in the cranial space created during the surgical procedure. The signals from the implant are then transmitted to a Neuralink application, which is trained to decode the intent behind the information and convert it into executable actions, such as the movement of a computer cursor.

“I beat my friends in games that, as a quadriplegic, I shouldn’t beat them in.

Before surgery, Arbaugh had to rely on a mouth stick — an assistive tool that allows the user to apply pressure to a touchscreen when placed in the mouth — to play games and interact with the digital world. Although this allowed Arbaugh to use an iPad, it presented a series of disadvantages. For example, to use the mouth stick, he had to sit upright and have a caregiver present to give him the tool. Additionally, he could not speak properly while using it, and prolonged use risked triggering spasms and causing pressure sores.

“I thought the mouth stick was much better than the BCI a month ago, when we compared them I saw that the BCI was just as good if not better and it continues to improve; the games I can play now are much better than the previous ones,” Arbaugh said in a Neuralink blog update marking the 100th anniversary of his operation. “I beat my friends in games that, as a quadriplegic, I shouldn’t beat them in.”

Neuralink revealed that Arbaugh recently used the brain-computer interface for 69 hours in a single week, including 34 hours for recreational purposes. During this time, Arbaugh used assistive technology to surf the Internet, learn new languages, and play a range of video games, including the rogue-like deck-building title Slay the Spire, Old School RuneScape, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Sid Meier’s Civilization. 6, all this by manipulating the cursor with his mind. Scientists are also working on a bespoke gaming feature within the Neuralink app, designed to give Arbaugh greater freedom in how and when he can log in and play games.

Within 100 days of his surgery, Arbaugh set what Neuralink described as a “new world record for human BCI cursor control.” It is currently able to use the interface to obtain a value of 8.0 bits per second (BPS), which is the measurement used by the scientific community to evaluate the accuracy and speed of computer cursor movements. For context, Neuralink engineers recorded around 10 BPS using a physical mouse – a score Arbaugh is looking to achieve in the coming months.

The company also revealed that an unspecified number of electrode-bearing wires that were inserted into Arbaugh’s head during installation of the N1 implant had “retracted” from his brain in the weeks that followed. followed the operation. The movement of the wire forced Neuralink scientists to change the algorithm responsible for collecting and translating neural data, which the company said compensated for the performance loss.

Arbaugh nicknamed the implant Eve.  Image credit: Noland Arbaugh /
Arbaugh nicknamed the implant Eve. Image credit: Noland Arbaugh /

IGN has contacted Neuralink to inquire whether the removal of the wires was an expected complication and whether the development could impact the patient’s health, and will update this article to reflect any further response.

In the future, Neuralink seeks to increase Arbaugh’s ability to control the cursor – in part by combating a known problem called “cursor drift”, which is combatted through the development of a “bias correction” system – and adding new features. Specifically, the researchers hope to enable users to control external physical aids, such as robotic arms and wheelchairs, using only the link, which could help quadriplegic patients gain a greater degree of autonomy.

Check out our previous coverage to stay up to date on Neuralink’s journey to human trials and past controversies surrounding animal testing complaints.

Anthony is a freelance contributor who covers science and video games news for IGN. He has over eight years of experience covering cutting-edge developments in several scientific fields and has absolutely no time for your shenanigans. Follow him on Twitter @BeardConGamer

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