First human brain implant malfunctioned, Neuralink says

The first Neuralink implant in a human malfunctioned after several threads recording neural activity retracted from the brain, the Elon Musk-owned startup revealed Wednesday.

The threads retracted in the weeks following the surgery in late January that placed the Neuralink hardware in 29-year-old Noland Arbaugh’s brain, the company said in a blog post.

This reduced the number of effective electrodes and the ability of Arbaugh, a quadriplegic, to control a computer cursor with his brain.

“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 in the blog post.

The company said the adjustments resulted in a “rapid and sustained improvement” in bits-per-second, a measure of speed and accuracy of cursor control, surpassing Arbaugh’s initial performance.

While the problem doesn’t appear to pose a risk to Arbaugh’s safety, Neuralink reportedly floated the idea of removing his implant, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The company has also told the Food and Drug Administration that it believes it has a solution for the issue that occurred with Arbaugh’s implant, the Journal reported.

The implant was placed just more than 100 days ago. In the blog post, the company touted Arbaugh’s ability to play online computer games, browse the internet, livestream and use other applications “all by controlling a cursor with his mind.”

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