Neuralink says its first in-human brain implant malfunctioned

Elon Musk’s brain chip startup said Wednesday that its first-ever implant malfunctioned.

Neuralink’s brain-computer interface, known as BCI, was implanted into the brain of 29-year-old patient Nolan Arbaugh in January.

Designed to help paralyzed patients control external technology using only their minds, Arbaugh – who is paralyzed from the shoulders down following a diving accident eight years ago – is participating in the six-year trial of Neuralink to test the security of the chip.

Neuralink said its brain-computer interface, known as BCI – which uses electrodes and wires to collect data on neural activity and brain movements – was malfunctioning. Getty Images/iStockphoto
Neuralink’s chip contains 1,024 electrodes spread over 64 “wires” thinner than a strand of hair.

Last month, Neuralink livestreamed a nine-minute video of Arbaugh showing how BCI technology works.

He has been seen playing video games and explained that he simply imagines the cursor moving where he wants it to go and that is what it does.

Neuralink’s chip contains 1,024 electrodes spread across 64 “wires” – thinner than a human hair – which are programmed to collect data on the brain’s neural activity and movement intention and send that data to the company computer to decode them in order to transform thoughts into action.

However, in the weeks following the astonishing video, “a number of wires retracted from (Arbaugh’s) brain, resulting in a net decrease in the number of effective electrodes,” Neuralink said in an article blog post on Wednesday, reported earlier by The Wall Street. Newspaper.

As a result, Neuralink was unable to measure the effectiveness of its electrode and wire system.

It is unknown how many threads malfunctioned.

Nolan Arbaugh, 29, became the first human subject tested for Neuralink’s brain chip when a robot surgeon plugged the implant into his brain in January. Take careBridge

“In response to this change, we modified the recording algorithm to be more sensitive to signals from the neuronal population, improved the techniques for translating these signals into cursor movements, and improved the user interface,” added Neuralink, insisting that this refinement will improve accuracy. of Arbaugh’s ability to control the bits per second (BPS) of the cursor.

BPS, according to the company, is “the standard measure of speed and accuracy.”

“These improvements produced a rapid and sustained improvement in BPS, which has now exceeded Noland’s initial performance,” Neuralink said.

Arbaugh became paralyzed from the shoulders down after a diving accident eight years ago. Facebook

The company – which recently changed its home base from Delaware to Nevada after Musk’s dispute with a Delaware judge that invalidated his $56 billion salary at Tesla – considered removing the implant, but the problem did not pose a direct risk to Arbaugh’s safety, The Journal reported.

Even so, the possibility of removing Arbaugh’s implant, something called an “explant,” has been discussed, people familiar with the matter told the Journal.

Neuralink did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.

Neuralink has since stated that the chip’s function has been restored and that Arbaugh’s performance with BPS was better than it was before the snafu.

He is the first human subject tested for the chip developed by the Musk-owned company when a robot surgeon plugged the implant into his brain. It was not immediately clear how many others would participate in the trial or where they would be held.

Despite the problem, Arbaugh reportedly uses Neuralink’s BCI system about eight hours a day on weekdays and up to 10 hours on weekends.

“Now I can literally lie in bed and play to my heart’s content,” he said during the March livestream — or at least until his rechargeable chip’s battery runs out.

Elon Musk recently changed Neuralink’s state of incorporation from Delaware to Nevada after his dispute with a Delaware judge who invalidated his $56 billion Tesla pay package. Getty Images

Neuralink, founded in 2016, has mostly kept information about its technology and human trials secret, prompting calls for greater transparency.

Last year, the US Food and Drug Administration gave the green light to human trials of the brain chip after the company conducted hundreds of tests on animals – and faced backlash from groups animal rights in the process.

For his part, Arbaugh said he agreed to try the implant because he “wanted to be part of something that I thought was going to change the world.”

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