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Neuralink’s First Patient: Transformative Impact and Technical Challenges

Neuralink, a brain technology company started by Elon Musk, is making news with its first human implant. This technology, designed to help people with paralysis control digital devices using their thoughts, has shown both promising results and some technical issues. Noland Arbaugh, the first person to get the Neuralink brain implant, has shared how it has changed his life and the challenges he faced during the trial.

Nuralink Transformative Abilities

Noland Arbaugh, who became quadriplegic after a diving accident in 2016, found new hope with Neuralink. In an interview with “Good Morning America,” Arbaugh explained how the implant allows him to control a computer almost entirely with his thoughts. “I can control a computer just like anyone else can, which is not something I was able to do beforehand,” he said. This new ability has greatly improved his quality of life and offers hope for others with similar conditions.

Successful Surgery and Early Achievements

The surgery to implant the Neuralink device took place in January 2024 and initially went well. Arbaugh quickly learned to use the technology, playing video games, browsing the internet, and moving a computer cursor. He even set a world record for the fastest thought-controlled cursor movement.

Technical Issues and Solutions

Despite early success, the implant faced significant issues. Neuralink revealed that some of the tiny wires, thinner than a human hair, had pulled back from Arbaugh’s brain, which affected the device’s ability to read brain signals. This problem led to data loss and required the company to adjust the technology. Neuralink managed to fix the problem by changing the device’s algorithm to be more sensitive.

Experts say that the movement of these wires is a known problem because the brain naturally moves inside the skull. Redesigning the wires to stay in place better could cause risks, such as brain tissue damage if the wires need to be removed. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) knew about these risks from earlier animal testing and continues to watch the safety of Neuralink’s human trials.

Looking Forward

Arbaugh is hopeful about Neuralink’s future and its potential to revolutionize treatment for spinal cord injuries. He believes that one day, spinal cord injuries will not be permanently disabling. “It’s going to be amazing when someone can have a spinal cord injury, go into a hospital, get surgery, and walk out a couple of days later. I think it’s gonna happen,” he said.

Neuralink has faced challenges, such as wires retracting and issues seen in animal tests, including brain inflammation. Despite these problems, the improvements made to the technology show a commitment to overcoming these obstacles.

Neuralink‚Äôs advancements are relevant to Canadians too. According to the Rick Hansen Foundation, more than 86,000 Canadians live with spinal cord injuries, and over 4,300 new cases occur each year. Innovations like Neuralink could significantly impact the lives of many Canadians, providing new opportunities for those with severe physical disabilities. Neuralink’s brain implant technology has shown great potential to change lives, as seen in Noland Arbaugh’s experience. While there are still technical challenges, the progress so far is promising. As Neuralink continues to improve its technology, the goal of significantly improving the lives of people with paralysis, including many Canadians, seems more achievable.

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