Neuralink brain chip implant partially failed after surgery

Neuralink brain chip implant partially failed after surgery

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Crossed wires: Neuralink has the ambitious goal of creating a novel brain-computer interface by attaching a chip directly to a patient’s brain. The first experimental surgery has already occurred, but the implant encountered some “hardware” issues that needed to be addressed through a software approach.

Neuralink Corporation, the controversial neurotechnology company criticized for its questionable medical trials resulting in the death of a significant number of monkeys, achieved its first experimental success earlier this year. Quadriplegic patient Noland Arbaugh underwent Neuralink’s initial BCI chip implantation, enabling him to gain the ability to move a cursor on a computer display after suffering full-body paralysis from a driving accident eight years ago.

Despite being hailed as an unprecedented success, Arbaugh’s surgery encountered some troubling aftermaths. In a recent post detailing the experimental procedure, Neuralink revealed that several threads within the chip “retracted from the brain” a few weeks after the surgery. Neuralink’s BCI boasts 1,024 electrodes connected to 64 threads, which are directly attached to the brain to record neural activity and translate it into motion.

The retracted threads led to a “net decrease” in the number of effective electrodes recording brain signals, as explained by Neuralink. The company addressed the issue by enhancing the recording algorithm’s sensitivity to neural signals, eliminating the need for a “hardware” operation on the implant itself.

Neuralink stated that its software engineers have enhanced the translation process to convert these signals into cursor movements, thus improving the device’s “user interface” capabilities despite the hardware setback. Thanks to these software refinements, the bits-per-second performance has been boosted, and the patient has even experienced improved performance compared to initial results.

Elon Musk’s company is now striving to equip its BCI device with cursor control performance comparable to that of able-bodied individuals. Future enhancements will include a text input feature, followed by the ability to control robotic arms, wheelchairs, and other technologies aimed at enhancing independence for quadriplegic patients.

For now, Neuralink will continue to remotely monitor the behavior of its BCI chip to demonstrate its safety and usefulness in daily life. The company remains committed to providing the 180,000 Americans living with quadriplegia with a high-performance interface to connect with today’s digital world.

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