Neuralink reports issue with 1st human brain chip implant

In January, Neuralink implanted its brain-computer device into a human for the first time. In the weeks following the surgery, a number of threads on the implant retracted from the patient's brain, the company said May 8. 

Elon Musk's neurotechnology company shared the issue in a blog post after The Wall Street Journal had asked about the malfunction, which limited the amount of data the device was able to capture from the patient's brain. People familiar with the matter told the news outlet that Neuralink considered the possibility of removing the implant after an undisclosed number  of threads retracted from the tissue. 

In its blogpost, Neuralink said the issue led to a "net decrease in the number of effective electrodes." In response, it modified the brain implant's 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. These refinements produced a rapid and sustained improvement in bits-per-second, that has now superseded [the patient's] initial performance." 

In March, Neuralink introduced 29-year-old Noland Arbaugh as the first patient to have received its brain chip implant. The neurotechnology company posted a video on Mr. Musk's X platform, showing the patient, who was left paralyzed after a diving accident in 2016, playing chess on a computer, directing a cursor to play the game by thinking. 

Mr. Arbaugh has said the implant has allowed him to "reconnect with the world." 

"It's like a luxury overload," he said in Neuralink's May 8 blog post. 

Sources told the Journal that the company expected challenges after its first test in a human and that people inside Neuralink are optimistic that the issue can be solved and enable greater capabilities in future implants. It has reportedly told the FDA it believes it has fixes for the thread issue. Neuralink was founded in 2017 and received FDA clearance for clinical trials in humans last May.

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