Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

The first patient for Elon Musk’s Neuralink device has showed themselves using a computer with the device.

A nine minute livestream on X showed Noland Arbaugh using the device to play chess online.

Mr. Arbaugh, 29, who was left paralysed below the shoulders in a diving accident, received the chip in an operation in January.

Speaking during the nine-minute presentation, Mr. Arbaugh said that the procedure to install the device was ‘super easy’.

As well as successfully playing chess ‘with his mind’, he also said he’d been able to put in an eight hour stint of the grand strategy game Civilization VI.

Nonetheless, he clarified that the new technology is not perfect and has ‘run into some issues’ which are being looked into.

Neuralink is a technology company owned by Elon Musk and is researching ways to connect the brain to a computer.

It is hoped that the technology will enable people who have suffered severe spinal or neurological issues to tackle some of the challenges they face.

The device is around the size of a coin, and works by picking up on the electrical signals the brain produces whenever we do something, whether that’s moving our bodies, speaking, or even thinking.

Noland Arbaugh had the chip implanted into his brain.

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Neuralink has previously tested on pigs and monkeys, and in May 2023 was granted permission to begin human testing by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

It is not the only company looking into the prospect of using computer interfaces as a way to treat certain conditions.

The École Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne in Switzerland has successfully enabled Gert-Jan Oskam to walk by thinking of the movements involved.

Mr Oskam, 40, was paralysed in a cycling accident, and the electrical implants have enabled him to stand, walk, and climb stairs.

The peer-reviewed journal Nature published details of the findings in May 2023.

Speaking about the cutting edge technology, Professor Anne Vanhoestenberghe of King’s College London. told the BBC: “For any company producing medical devices, the first test in humans is a significant milestone.

“For the brain computer interface community, we must place this news in the context that whilst there are many companies working on exciting products, there are only a few other companies who have implanted their devices in humans, so Neuralink has joined a rather small group.”

Neuralink is owned by Elon Musk.

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Nonetheless, she cautioned that the true measure of success for such a device is measured in its long term ability to help patients.

Neuralink has previously been criticised over its animal testing, with Reuters reporting in December 2022 that its tests have resulted in the deaths of around 1,500 animals.

In July 2023, the head of the US Department of Agriculture said it had not found any violations of animal research regulations at Neuralink.

A separate investigation by the Dept of Agriculture is ongoing.