After Accident With First Patient, Neuralink Seeks Volunteer for Second Implant

After Accident With First Patient, Neuralink Seeks Volunteer for Second Implant

Image by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Things haven’t gone entirely according to plan with Neuralink’s first human patient: as the company conceded after questions from the Wall Street Journal, wires inside the patient’s brain appear to have come loose, degrading the quality of implant’s signal.

This wasn’t entirely unforeseen. Doctors had previously warned about danger to Neuralink’s test patients due to the company’s lack of transparency, and it even turned out that Neuralink and federal regulators were aware of the specific risk of the threads pulling out before going ahead with the surgery.

But, of course, the company proceeded anyway — even telling its first patient, a paralyzed man named Noland Arbaugh, not to worry about the gruesome fates of certain Neuralink test monkeys.

Now, it’s in the context of that distinctly move-fast-and-break things approach to neurological hardware that Neuralink cofounder and chief hype man Elon Musk is now seeking a second volunteer to receive the company’s next experimental brain implant.

“Neuralink is accepting applications for the second participant,” Musk wrote on X-formerly-Twitter, which he also now owns. “This is our Telepathy cybernetic brain implant that allows you to control your phone and computer just by thinking.”

Bombastic as those claims sound, from what Arbaugh has said since coming forward, they do seem to be mostly true — at least for now.

Arbaugh was paralyzed in a diving accident in 2016 and afterward could only interact with technology using his voice and a stylus in his mouth. Until he got his Neuralink implant, that is, which he says gives him such dextrous control over digital interfaces that he’s used it to play games including Mario Kart and Civilization VI.

“I didn’t have anything to wake up for in the morning, and this has changed that for me,” Arbaugh told Good Morning America on Friday. “I was just very happy that I would be a part of something that I believe is so monumental. This is the next step forward of helping people with paralysis.”

It hasn’t always been a smooth ride, though. After he started to lose functionality as the threads came loose in his brain, Arbaugh told the program, he “cried afterwards.”

“It was very, very hard to give up all of the amazing things that I was able to do,” he added.

Neuralink has subsequently tweaked its algorithm to give Arbaugh some functionality back, though his long-term prospects with the chip remain unclear.

However, Arbaugh remains undeterred.

“I’d want to upgrade,” he told Bloomberg this week. “Hopefully, they’ll put me on the short list.”

More on Neuralink: Autopsy Found That Neuralink Implant “Ruptured” Monkey’s Brain

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