Patient reports that 85% of the Neuralink implant wires have already come loose.

The patient says that 85% of the Neuralink implant wires have already come loose.

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Neuralink’s brain-computer interface (BCI) implant threads that were connected to the first human patient’s motor cortex are now completely detached. The patient’s brain has moved up to three times what the company thought it would volunteer Noland Arbaugh told The Wall Street Journal on Monday. Arbaugh also said that Neuralink has fixed the initial performance problems with an over-the-air software update and is now working better than before. However, these new facts continue to raise worries about the company’s controversial human implant study, which has been delayed several times.

The 64 lines of Neuralink’s N1 BCI device, which is about the size of a coin, are put a few millimeters into the motor cortex. 16 electrodes on each thread turn a user’s brain activity into computer orders, such as moving the mouse and typing. The WSJ says that Neuralink took “a few weeks” to fix a problem with Arbaugh’s implant: about 870 of the 1024 wires no longer work. When Arbaugh asked if his device could be taken out, fixed, or even replaced, Neuralink’s medical team told him that they would rather not do another brain surgery and instead find out more.

Neuralink says that a patient’s brain chip is partly “retracted.”

The company quietly released an update earlier this month in which it said it had finally found that the problem had lowered the implant’s bits-per-second (BPS) rate, which is a measure of how fast and accurately the BCI works. Arbaugh’s device became “more sensitive to neural population signals, improved the techniques to translate these signals into cursor movements, and enhanced the user interface” after “the recording algorithm” was changed.

“These refinements produced a rapid and sustained improvement in BPS, that has now surpassed Noland’s initial performance,” Neuralink wrote next to a picture of a data graph without giving any further references. According to The Register, this could mean that “only nine or ten of the original 64” threads are still running. Arbaugh’s side effects after surgery back up earlier claims that Neuralink experts have known for years that the implant could move inside a person’s brain. 

Neuralink’s ongoing PRIME Study has gotten applications from about 1,000 people, but less than a tenth of them are ready to take part in the study. The business has said in the past that it wants to do nine more surgeries on implants by the end of the year. It plans to finish its second procedure in June. According to documents seen by The Wall Street Journal, Neuralink thinks that implanting the threads deeper into the brain might be a way to fix the ongoing wire protrusion problem.

Neuralink wrote in an update before this year, “We’re still in the early steps of the PRIME Study and plan to deliver more updates as we resume to work with our first participant and other participants in the future.” It says below each blog post, “We do not promise that participating in the PRIME Study will help you in any way.”

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