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Neuralink Faces Setback as Brain Implant Threads Retract, Patient's Progress Stalled

Neuralink, the brain-machine interface company founded by Elon Musk, encountered a setback with its first in-human brain implant, known as the Link, when some of the implant's threads retracted from the patient's brain tissue. This retraction led to a decrease in the number of effective electrodes, limiting the amount of data the implant could capture from the brain, thereby hindering Neuralink's ability to assess its performance. The patient, 29-year-old quadriplegic Noland Arbaugh, had undergone the implant surgery in January as part of a safety study, initially showcasing progress in controlling a computer cursor with his mind. However, the thread detachment issue surfaced weeks after the surgery, affecting the implant's data transfer rate.

In response to the issue, Neuralink implemented modifications to the recording algorithm to enhance sensitivity to neural signals, improved techniques for translating these signals into cursor movements, and refined the user interface. These refinements resulted in a significant improvement in the data transfer rate, surpassing Arbaugh's initial performance. Despite the setback, Arbaugh continues to use the brain-computer interface system for extended periods daily. While Neuralink did not disclose the exact cause of the thread retraction, experts speculate that the company's novel design, featuring flexible threads penetrating brain tissue, may have contributed to the mechanical issues.

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