Illustration of a chip being held by forceps next to a brain

Neuralink's innovative work in brain-computer interfaces faced an early challenge when its first human implant experienced issues. This setback occurred during the initial trial with Noland Arbaugh, a 29-year-old quadriplegic.

The issue revealed important insights and solutions for the future of the technology. Read our complete article about the matter to understand the challenges and lessons Neuralink has learned. Start reading and discover more.

The Initial Implant And Its Challenges

In January, Neuralink implanted its first device in Noland Arbaugh. However, several threads meant to record brain activity retracted, reducing the number of functional electrodes. This retraction impacted Arbaugh's ability to control a computer cursor using his mind. The explanation is that the reduced number of functional electrodes diminished Arbaugh's ability to control a computer cursor.

Even though Arbaugh's safety was not compromised, The Wall Street Journal reported that Neuralink considered removing the implant to address the problem comprehensively.

To tackle the issue, Neuralink made several key adjustments; check them out below. 

  • Improved Recording Algorithm: Enhanced ability to capture neural signals
  • Better Signal Translation Techniques: More accurate interpretation of brain activity
  • User Interface Enhancements: More intuitive and responsive interaction

These modifications led to a significant and sustained improvement in cursor control speed and accuracy, surpassing Arbaugh's initial performance.

Neuralink informed the FDA that they had identified a viable solution, ensuring that future implantations would benefit from these advancements.

Arbaugh's Progress And Capabilities

Since the implant, just over 100 days ago, Arbaugh has achieved remarkable milestones using only his mind to control the computer cursor:

  • playing online games;
  • browsing the internet;
  • live streaming; and
  • using various applications.

Despite initial setbacks, Neuralink's adjustments have led to significant improvements. As Arbaugh continues to demonstrate increased capabilities, the future of this technology looks promising for enhancing the quality of life for individuals with severe disabilities.