Neuralink Knew Brain Chip Was Faulty ‘For Years’ But Implanted It Anyway

Neuralink Knew Brain Chip Was Faulty ‘For Years’ But Implanted It Anyway

Tesla boss Elon Musk has his fingers in quite a few pies these days, with half his mind working to improve electric vehicles for the masses, some of it working to save social media from bots and a bit more working on taking us to Mars. When he’s not doing that, he’s also leading a company that knew its brain chips could malfunction but still implanted them into a living person.

Neuralink shouted from the rooftops earlier this year after it claimed to have succesfully implanted one of its brain chips into a human, a 29-year-old quadriplegic named Noland Arbaugh to be specific. After the surgery, the company proudly showed off Arbaugh’s ability to play video games like Mario Kart using nothing but brain power.

Then, however, the problems started. The company has now been forced to admit that wires in the patient’s implant worked loose, reports Futurism. Now, there appears to be mounting evidence claiming that Neuralink knew this was a possibility before it implanted the chip into Arbaugh’s brain. As the site explains:

And now Reuters reports, citing unnamed sources at the company, that the startup has known for years that wires in its brain chip are known to “retract” — meaning the Musk’s venture knew about the safety issue and forged ahead with the patient’s brain surgery anyway.

This all sounds alarming in light of all the horrific news about the startup’s monkey brain experiments, which have drawn scrutiny from policymakers in Washington, D.C.

But the US Food and Drug Administration apparently knew about the ongoing wire issues before approving the human trial, Reuters reports, and declined to comment on this recent news. It did tell the news agency that it’s observing Neuralink test subjects.

According to the Reuters report, when the wires retract they take with them the sensitive electrodes that decode the brain’s signals. Any wires that retract are effectively useless and with fewer points in contact with the brain the implant isn’t as effective.

Neuralink reportedly knew this was a risk “for years,” but Reuters adds that the risk of it happening low enough that “a redesign not to be merited.” As per the site:

Were Neuralink to continue the trials without a redesign, it could face challenges should more wires pull out and its tweak to the algorithm proves insufficient, one of the sources said.

But redesigning the threads comes with its own risks. Anchoring them in the brain, for example, could result in brain tissue damage if the threads dislodge or if the company needs to remove the device, two of the sources said.

Now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it will “continue to monitor the safety” of any patient enrolled in a Neuralink study. In a blog post about Arbaugh’s surgery, Neuralink has so far not reported any adverse health effects as a result of the complications, nor has it disclosed how many of the chip’s 64 threads have stopped collecting brain data.

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