Neuralink Aims for Second Human Implant Despite Initial Challenges

Neuralink Brain Implant Enables Patient to Control Computer Mouse Through Thought

Key Points:

  • They are planned for the next week following hardware issues with the first participant.
  • The telepathy system uses 64 ultra-thin threads with 1,024 electrodes to record neural signals.
  • Other BCI companies include Synchron, Paradromics, and Precision Neuroscience, but none have FDA commercialization approval.
  • Strategies include skull surface sculpting, deeper thread insertion, and precise movement tracking.

Elon Musk announced on Wednesday that his brain tech startup Neuralink plans to implant its brain-computer interface (BCI) in a second human patient within “the next week or so.” It follows the company’s ongoing efforts to address hardware issues encountered with its first human participant.

Neuralink’s BCI, named Telepathy, aims to assist patients by using advanced paralysis-control technology. The system involves 64 ultra-thin “threads” inserted directly into the brain, recording neural signals through 1,024 electrodes. This technology seeks to bridge the gap between the brain and computers, allowing for direct control and communication.

Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) have been researched in academia for decades, and several companies, including Synchron, Paradromics, and Precision Neuroscience, are developing similar systems. However, no BCI company has yet received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to commercialize its devices.

During a livestream with Neuralink executives, Musk shared that the company hopes to implant its device in “the high single digits” of patients this year. The exact timeline and locations for these procedures remain unclear.

Neuralink’s first human implant occurred in January, involving 29-year-old Noland Arbaugh at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. This procedure was part of an FDA-approved clinical study. Although the surgery was initially deemed successful, subsequent weeks revealed that some of the implant’s threads had retracted from Arbaugh’s brain.

Only about 15% of the channels in Arbaugh’s implant are functional. Despite this, he has been able to use the BCI for various activities, such as watching videos, reading, and playing chess and other video games, sometimes for up to 70 hours a week.

Neuralink is working on several strategies to address the retraction issue and enhance monitoring to improve future implants. Neuralink President DJ Seo mentioned that one approach involves sculpting the surface of the skull to minimize the gap under the implant. Additionally, the company plans to insert some threads deeper into the brain tissue and track their movement more precisely.

Dr. Matthew MacDougall, head of neurosurgery at Neuralink, stated that the upcoming procedures will involve inserting threads at varying depths to understand better and mitigate the retraction problem. Despite the initial challenges, Neuralink remains committed to advancing its BCI technology, hoping to significantly improve the functionality and reliability of future implants.

TechGolly editorial team led by Al Mahmud Al Mamun. He worked as an Editor-in-Chief at a world-leading professional research Magazine. Rasel Hossain and Enamul Kabir are supporting as Managing Editor. Our team is intercorporate with technologists, researchers, and technology writers. We have substantial knowledge and background in Information Technology (IT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Embedded Technology.

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