Neuralink posts a video of a patient using data from a brain implant to play chess.

Neuralink streamed a live video on Wednesday that showed a patient using the company’s brain implant to move a mouse and play chess on a computer.

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Neuralink, Elon Musk’s new company, streamed a live video of a person using their brain device to move a mouse and play chess on a computer on Wednesday.

Noland Arbaugh, who is 29 years old, is the first person to ever have Neuralink’s gadget inserted. The company is working on a brain-computer interface (BCI) that will let people who are severely paralyzed use only neural cues to handle technology outside of their bodies. Musk said in his January 8th post on X that Neuralink’s first product is called Telepathy.

In the film that aired on X on Wednesday, Arbaugh said that he lost the use of all four limbs in a diving accident about eight years ago. He said the surgery to get Neuralink’s implant, in which wires are put into the brain tissue by removing a piece of the patient’s head, was “super easy.” He said that he was let out of the hospital the next day.

The coach said, “It’s not perfect; I’d say we’ve run into some problems.” It has already changed my life, but I don’t want people to think this is the end of the trip.

A brain-computer interface (BCI) reads brain data and turns them into instructions for outside devices. People with serious diseases that get worse over time, like ALS, might be able to finally text or scroll through social media with their minds if the system works right.

Several companies, including Paradromics, Synchron, Blackrock Neurotech, and Precision Neuroscience, have made BCI systems that can do these things, and many of them have also put devices in people. Musk is very well known in this field because he is the CEO of both Tesla and SpaceX and also runs Neuralink.

The things Neuralink showed off in its movie on Wednesday were not completely new. The head of the Department of Neurological Surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dr. Nader Pouratian, said that BCI technology has been being studied and improved for many years.

He said that BCIs are very interesting, but they also have a lot of problems that need to be solved in the real world, such as how to understand and use brain messages. Pouratian said he believes important for progress is for both research and the BCI business as a whole to be open about new developments.

A blog post says that Neuralink started looking for people to take part in its first-in-human clinical trial in the fall, after getting permission from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to do the study in May 2023. The first person the company put its device in was a person in January, and Musk said that person, who turned out to be Arbaugh, was “recovering well,” according to a post on X.

Except for Musk’s posts, Neuralink hasn’t said much about the study itself or how big it is. The study is not mentioned on clinicaltrials.gov as of Wednesday. This is where most medical device companies share information about their research with the public and other healthcare workers to help them understand their goals.

The trial by Neuralink does not make it clear how many people are taking part or what the study is trying to show. Before the FDA gives its final OK, the company will have to go through several rounds of tests to make sure it is safe and effective.

CNBC asked Neuralink for a reaction, but they didn’t answer.

Chief science officer of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, Dr. Marco Baptista, said that there is reason to be hopeful about Neuralink’s technology. The foundation helps people who have become disabled. Early in March, he told CNBC that BCI technology could help patients in a big way, but that Neuralink’s system should be treated with doubt, as with all new technologies.

He said that Neuralink should put out more academic papers so that people could learn more about its technology. PubMed says that Neuralink is mentioned as the author of one white paper from 2019.

Baptista said, “I hope that this information will start to get out through the channels that are needed in science, which are peer-reviewed publications.” We haven’t seen that yet. It’s being done by other businesses.

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