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Elon Musk

Human with Neuralink brain chip sees improvement after initial malfunction, company says

Elon Musk announced that his company Neuralink plans to link human brains directly to computers, saying the first prototype could be implanted in a person by the end of 2020. Veuer's Sam Berman has the full story

There have been some issues with Neuralink鈥檚 brain-computer interface device, or brain chip since it was implanted in its first human patient, the company said in a

It鈥檚 been about eight months since the tech startup owned and co-founded by Elon Musk first announced that the company was seeking participants for its first clinical trial, and about a year since it received FDA approval to start implanting the BCI device in humans.聽聽

The idea and ultimate goal of the software is to grant people with paralysis the ability to control a computer cursor or keyboard by thought alone.聽

The process is said to be going 鈥渆xtremely well鈥 so far, with Neuralink reporting that Noland Arbaugh, the company鈥檚 first human participant was able to go home the day after the chip was implanted.

But Neuralink scientists have noticed some issues, writing that 鈥渟ome of the device's electrode-studded threads started retracting from the brain tissue鈥 in February, a month after it was surgically implanted.聽

Here鈥檚 what we know.

Cursor control impacted by issue, software fix brings 'rapid' improvement

Noland Arbaugh, Neuralink's first brain chip patient hops online for a game of chess.

The retraction of the electrode-studded threads from Arbaugh鈥檚 brain caused a malfunction, impacting the his ability to quickly and accurately control the computer鈥檚 cursor.聽

Neuralink addressed this issue, modifying the 鈥渞ecording algorithm鈥 to be more sensitive to the flow of signals between clusters of nerve cells in the brain.聽

And also 鈥渋mproved鈥 the techniques used to translate those signals into cursor movements.聽

Neuralink鈥檚 fixes 鈥減roduced a rapid and sustained improvement in BPS, that has now superseded Noland鈥檚 initial performance,鈥 the blog post said. BPS, or bits-per-second is a standard used to measure speed and accuracy of cursor control.聽

Arbaugh鈥檚 experience with the 鈥渓ink鈥 is closely monitored, participating in research sessions聽for up to 8 hours a day. The device is being used a total of 69 hours over the course of a week, broken up in 35 hours of structured sessions and 34 hours for personal use and recreation.聽

"In the weeks since his surgery, Noland has used the Link to control his laptop from various positions, including while lying down in bed. He plays online computer games with friends (Chess, Civilization VI), browses the internet, live streams, and uses other applications on his MacBook, all by controlling a cursor with his mind,鈥 the Neuralink blog post said.

Text entry, better cursor control performance is the immediate goal聽

With the issue of electrode-studded thread retraction resolved, the post said Neuralink scientists are currently working to 鈥減ush cursor control performance to the same level as that of able-bodied individuals.鈥

聽As well expanding the link鈥檚 functionality to include text entry, which in the future could enable the control of 鈥渞obotic arms, wheelchairs, and other technologies鈥 to help people living with quadriplegia.

鈥淚 think it [the technology should give a lot of people a lot of hope for what this thing can do for them, first and foremost their gaming experience, but then that'll translate into so much more and I think that's awesome,鈥 according to Arbaugh, who is quoted in the blog.聽

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