Neuralink Patient Reports Loss of Function As Implanted Chip Stops Working

Elon Musk - Neuralink First Patient

Earlier this year, Noland Arbaugh became the first human patient to have a brain-computer interface chip implanted by Elon Musk’s Neuralink.

The 29-year-old Texas native, who became paralyzed after a diving accident eight years ago, was initially amazed at the results. He learned to move a cursor with his mind alone and used these newfound skills to play Civilization VI and even Mario Kart.

He began setting records immediately, as measured by standardized brain-computer interface tests.

However, not everything went as planned. Neuralink later admitted that some of the threads inserted into his motor cortex started to retract over time, possibly due to air trapped in his skull following the surgery.

Neuralink – First Patient

In a new interview Arbaugh recalled the distressing experience of losing the abilities he had just regained. “I started losing control of the cursor,” Arbaugh told, “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,” he added. “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.”

The news came as quite a shock.

“I thought they would just keep collecting some data but that they were really going to move on to the next person,” Arbaugh recalled. “I cried a little bit.” Neuralink watched with concern as the data streaming rate from Arbaugh’s implant declined over time.

Fortunately, the startup claimed in a recent blog post that the team successfully altered the algorithm interpreting the signals from the chip, leading to an increase in data throughput.

Neuralink Device

Arbaugh has started tracing letters with a cursor on his computer, allowing Neuralink’s software to slowly begin recognizing words with the hope of one day interpreting entire sentences at much greater speeds than typing them out letter by letter.

Arbaugh hopes to give other people in similar situations hope by trialing Neuralink’s brain-computer interface.

“I bet the next person that gets this is going to feel exactly the same way as I do; once you get a taste for using it, you just can’t stop. It blows my mind so much.”

He’s agreed to keep the chip in his head for a year as part of an experiment primarily designed to test whether the implant is safe and won’t cause damage over prolonged periods.

Despite some initial setbacks, Arbaugh is already hoping to receive the company’s next iteration in the future. “I’d want to upgrade,” he told the publication. “Hopefully, they’ll put me on the short list.”

Jessica Smith
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