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Neuralink To Test Brain Implant On Second Patient

Neuralink, Elon Musk’s brain implant startup, is now accepting applications for a second participant to test its brain chip, the billionaire announced on X Friday.

Background and Initial Trial

This request follows five months after the first human trial participant, Noland Arbaugh, received a brain chip implant. Despite experiencing an unexpected problem where the threads connecting the chip to his brain retracted, causing performance issues, adjustments were made to improve its function. Arbaugh, who has been a quadriplegic since a 2016 diving accident, stated that the implant, which allows him to control a computer cursor with his brain, has profoundly impacted his life.

Testimonies and Life Changes

“I didn’t have anything to wake up for in the morning, and this has changed that for me,” Arbaugh told Good Morning America. “I was just very happy that I would be a part of something that I believe is so monumental. This is the next step forward in helping people with paralysis.”

Recruitment for Further Trials

Neuralink is seeking more participants like Arbaugh to test the brain chip. “If you have quadriplegia and want to explore new ways of controlling your computer, we invite you to participate in our clinical trial,” the company said on X.

PRIME Study and Goals

The current trial participants will be part of the PRIME Study (Precise Robotically Implanted Brain-Computer Interface). This study aims to evaluate the safety of the implant and the surgical robot while testing the device’s functionality. Participants, particularly those with limited or no ability to use both hands due to cervical spinal cord injury or ALS, will have chips implanted in the brain area that controls the intention to move. The chip records and sends brain signals to an app, allowing users to control a computer cursor or keyboard using their thoughts.

Progress and Challenges

About a month post-operation, Arbaugh could control a computer mouse with his brain, even using it to play chess. However, a performance issue later developed, affecting data processing speeds. Arbaugh expressed the difficulty of temporarily losing the capabilities he had gained. Neuralink emphasized that addressing such issues is part of the learning process in clinical trials.

Future Prospects and Regulatory Hurdles

While these advancements are promising, widespread consumer access to Neuralink’s brain implants will require broader regulatory approval. The company aims to use these implants to help paralyzed individuals control devices and possibly assist blind people in regaining sight by interpreting brain signals as actions.

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