Elon Musk’s Neuralink Is Ready to Implant a Second Volunteer

A second individual will quickly obtain Neuralink’s experimental mind implant, in keeping with Elon Musk, the corporate’s cofounder.

In a video replace on Wednesday, Musk mentioned the surgical procedure is deliberate to happen in “the subsequent week or so.” The firm is making adjustments to the surgical process and placement of the system to keep away from issues that arose with its first participant, whose implant partially indifferent from the mind just a few weeks after surgical procedure.

Neuralink is creating a brain-computer interface, or BCI, which makes use of an individual’s mind alerts to manage an exterior system. Its first product, dubbed Telepathy, goals to assist paralyzed individuals function a pc utilizing simply their ideas. Musk has mentioned Neuralink is engaged on a second product, known as Blindsight, to offer synthetic imaginative and prescient to people who find themselves blind.

“A manner to consider the Neuralink system is sort of like a Fitbit or an Apple Watch with tiny wires or electrodes,” Musk mentioned within the video, which was livestreamed on his social media platform, X. In the quick time period, the Neuralink system is supposed to assist individuals with disabilities, however Musk mentioned his long-term purpose is to make use of BCI expertise “to mitigate the civilizational threat of AI by having a more in-depth symbiosis between human intelligence and digital intelligence.”

For now, the corporate is working an early feasibility research to judge the protection and performance of its system in individuals with paralysis. As a part of the research, Noland Arbaugh turned the primary individual to get Neuralink’s mind implant in January. Arbaugh is paralyzed from the shoulders down resulting from a swimming accident that occurred in 2016.

Neuralink’s coin-sized implant sits within the cranium and has 64 versatile wire threads thinner than a human hair that stretch into the mind tissue. Each thread comprises 16 electrodes that gather meant motion alerts from neurons.

At first, the system was functioning because it ought to. Arbaugh was ready to make use of a cursor simply by enthusiastic about it, permitting him to play video video games, e-mail buddies, and browse the Internet. But just a few weeks after the surgical procedure, the implant began to malfunction and Arbaugh misplaced management of the cursor.

In a May weblog put up on its web site, Neuralink mentioned numerous threads had retracted from Arbaugh’s mind, leading to a internet lower within the variety of efficient electrodes. In response, Neuralink modified its neural recording algorithm to be extra delicate and improved the way it interprets neural alerts into cursor actions.

Arbaugh is again to utilizing a pc together with his mind, though simply 15 p.c of the implant’s threads are nonetheless working, in keeping with Neuralink executives. In an interview with WIRED, Arbaugh mentioned the system has given him again a way of independence.

Still, Neuralink is making an attempt to keep away from the identical points with its second research participant. “We actually wish to guarantee that we make as a lot progress as doable between every Neuralink affected person,” Musk mentioned Wednesday.

During the video replace, firm executives acknowledged that air was trapped inside Arbaugh’s cranium after surgical procedure, which might have contributed to the threads popping out. Matthew MacDougall, Neuralink’s head of neurosurgery, mentioned the corporate is taking steps to get rid of this air pocket in its second volunteer. It additionally plans to insert the threads deeper into the mind tissue and monitor the motion of these threads.

“You might imagine the obvious mitigation for threads that pulled out of the mind is to insert them deeper. We suppose so too, and so we will broaden the vary of depths at which we insert threads,” MacDougall mentioned.

In addition, the corporate’s surgeons plan to “sculpt the floor of the cranium” to reduce the hole underneath the implant in order that it sits flush with the traditional contour of the cranium. This, MacDougall mentioned, ought to “decrease the hole underneath the implant” and “put it nearer to the mind and get rid of among the pressure on the threads.”

Musk mentioned he hopes to implant Neuralink’s system within the “excessive single digits” of research individuals this 12 months. (An inventory by Neuralink on ClinicalTrials.gov says the corporate plans to enroll three individuals in its present research.)

He added that Neuralink is engaged on a next-generation implant that has 128 threads, every with eight electrodes per thread, a change that he says will “probably double the bandwidth if we’re correct with the location of the threads.” Musk didn’t present a timeline on when that system will likely be prepared to check in individuals.

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