Neuralink’s chip has problem the company was aware of before implanting it in human brain

May 16, 2024  13:12

Elon Musk's company Neuralink reported that during human trials of its neural implant, the device's wires shifted from their original positions. According to Reuters, citing its sources, the company was aware of this problem, as it had already occurred during animal testing.

Neuralink is testing a neural implant designed to give paralyzed patients the ability to interact with digital devices through thought. In January 2024, the chip was implanted in a human for the first time, with Noland Arbaugh, paralyzed since 2016, participating in the trial. Last week, it was revealed that the tiny wires of the implant had "stretched" out of the patient's brain, leaving fewer electrodes to read signals.

Neuralink did not report any negative consequences of the wire displacement for Arbaugh and did not specify how many of the 64 wires had shifted. The company stated only that it was able to restore the implant's ability to read signals by modifying its algorithm and making it more sensitive.

According to Reuters, Neuralink knew about this problem long before the human trials began. Animal tests conducted by the company last year, prior to U.S. regulatory approval, showed that the wires could shift, sources told the agency. However, Neuralink deemed the risk insufficient to warrant a redesign of the neural implant.

Sources indicate that if Neuralink continues trials without changing the device's design, the problem could recur and become much more significant if more wires shift and the sensitivity of the implant cannot be increased.

Redesigning the device carries its own risks. Specifically, securing the wires could damage brain tissue if the wires shift again or if the company needs to remove the device. Neuralink aims for the wires to be easily removable, allowing the implant to be updated as technology improves.

Additionally, according to one source, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was also aware of the wire issue, as the company provided regulators with all animal test results. The agency declined to comment on this information, stating only that the FDA will monitor the safety of Neuralink's trial participants.

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