Neuralink Can Implant Second Person With a Brain Chip, FDA Says

Neuralink Can Implant Second Person With a Brain Chip, FDA Says

Neuralink, the Elon Musk-funded neuroscience startup, has received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to implant its next patient with its experimental brain chip. This next operation will seek to fix certain issues that occurred following its first implantation operation.

Neuralink previously implanted its experimental brain-computer interface chip in a paraplegic man, Noland Arbaugh, in an operation that was publicly announced this past January. Arbaugh’s identity was revealed during a livestream interview in March, during which the patient demonstrated some of the abilities the chip had given him, including the chance to play computer chess with his mind. It was recently revealed, however, that Arbaugh’s chip had malfunctioned and, for a period of time, experienced data leakage.

The company has now received federal approval to continue implanting patients with its chip, with the promise that it will work out the kinks that caused problems with Arbaugh’s chip, the Wall Street Journal originally reported. Arbaugh’s chip malfunctioned because some of the tiny wires attached to the chip came loose and stopped channeling signals from his brain to the company’s servers. In its next operation, Neuralink plans to embed these tiny wires deeper into the next patient’s brain. A source told the newspaper that the company wants to implant as many as 10 additional people with its chip by the end of this year.

Arbaugh recently opened up about his experience with the company in a series of press interviews. During a conversation with Bloomberg, Arbaugh explained the disappointment he felt when the chip began malfunctioning:

“I started losing control of the cursor. I thought they’d made some changes and that was the reason…But then they told me that the threads were getting pulled out of my brain. At first, they didn’t know how serious it would be or a ton about it…It was really hard to hear. I thought I’d gotten to use it for maybe a month, and then my journey was coming to an end. I thought they would just keep collecting some data but that they were really going to move on to the next person. I cried a little bit.”

However, Arbaugh says that updates to the chip’s software have allowed him to regain many of the abilities that he previously had and that he is still very supportive of Neuralink and what it’s done for him.

To implant Neuralink’s chip, a human surgeon must cut a small hole into the patient’s skull, after which a 7-foot-tall robot dubbed “R1″ sutures the implant’s electrified wires directly into the brain. This hardware then rests in the portion of the patient’s skull that was removed, right below the scalp, while its tiny wires carry data back and forth between the brain and the startup’s servers. The company previously tested its chips on animals, sometimes to disastrous effect. A large number of the company’s animal test subjects had to be euthanized and some died quite horribly, according to a lawsuit from a physicians group.

Gizmodo reached out to Neuralink for more details about its plans for the future and will update this story if it responds.

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