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Neuralink Faces Setback as First Human Implant Encounters Mechanical Issues

Written by : Jayati Dubey

May 10, 2024

Category Img

Source: X

This complication compromised the device's functionality, prompting Neuralink to implement a series of software fixes.

Neuralink Corp, Elon Musk's brain technology company, faced a major setback as its inaugural human implant encountered mechanical issues.

After the surgery in January, the device implanted in patient Noland Arbaugh exhibited signs of malfunction, with certain electrode-studded threads retracting from the brain tissue, as outlined in a recent blog post by the company.

The implanted device began to exhibit signs of malfunction, with some of the electrode-studded threads retracting from the brain tissue.

This complication compromised the device's functionality, prompting Neuralink to implement a series of software fixes to address the problem. The Wall Street Journal was the first to report on the incident.

Neuralink stated that the software adjustments led to improving the device's performance, ultimately leading to "a rapid and sustained improvement that has now superseded Noland's initial performance."

Focus on Enhancing Brain-Computer Interface

Neuralink is currently concentrating on enhancing text entry and cursor control for its brain-computer interface.

The company's long-term goals include enabling individuals to control physical devices such as robotic arms and wheelchairs through neural signals.

However, the recent malfunction has raised concerns within the brain-implant community.

Experts speculate that the issue may be linked to Neuralink's distinctive design, wherein the electrode-studded threads attach to a device situated within the skull bone rather than directly onto the surface of the brain tissue.

Eric Leuthardt, a neurosurgeon at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, highlighted that even slight movements of the head could result in notable displacement within the brain.

He clarified that conventional brain implants typically rest atop the brain tissue, enabling them to adapt more seamlessly to the brain's inherent movements.

Matt Angle, CEO of brain-implant competitor Paradromics Inc, pointed out that the retraction of threads is unusual for brain implants. He suggested that Neuralink's design approach may require further refinement to ensure stability and reliability.

Additionally, Leuthardt noted that Neuralink's pre-clinical testing on animals with smaller brains may not accurately reflect the stability observed in humans.

The timing of this malfunction could potentially impact Neuralink's plans for broader human trials and FDA approval.

Delays in addressing these mechanical issues may prolong the regulatory process and hinder the company's timeline for expanding human trials.

Neuralink announced plans to expand the capabilities of the Link device to interact with the physical world, enabling users to control robotic arms, wheelchairs, and other devices.

The company noted that this advancement could potentially enhance independence for individuals with quadriplegia.

In a livestream event held in March, Neuralink showcased a video featuring Arbaugh using the Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) system, describing the surgery as highly successful.

Despite some threads retracting from Arbaugh's brain tissue, Neuralink disclosed that he utilizes the BCI system for approximately eight hours per day during weekdays and up to 10 hours daily on weekends.

Additionally, Arbaugh recently utilized the device for a total of 69 hours within a single week, comprising 35 hours of structured sessions and an additional 34 hours of personal use.


About Chime India

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) is an executive organization dedicated to serving senior digital health leaders. CHIME includes more than 5,000 members in 56 countries and two US territories and partners with over 150 healthcare IT businesses and professional services firms. CHIME enables its members and business partners to collaborate, exchange ideas, develop professionally and advocate the effective use of information management to improve the health and care throughout the communities they serve. CHIME's members are chief information officers (CIOs), chief medical information officers (CMIOs), chief nursing information officers (CNIOs), chief innovation officers (CIOs), chief digital officers (CDOs), and other senior healthcare leaders. The CHIME India Chapter became the first international chapter outside North America in 2016 and is now a community of over 70+ members in India. For more information, please visit www.chimecentral.org

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