Neuralink will install its chips in the brain of a second patient: approval from the FDA

Neuralink has received approval from the FDA (Food and Drug Administrationthe body that regulates pharmaceutical products in the USA) to continue testing its chips on other volunteer human beings, after the experience with the first human patient Noland Arbaugh. The BCIs (Brain-Computer Interface) developed by Neuralink allow you to control electronic devices with your mind thanks to a chip that “reads” neuronal patterns and “translates” them into specific actions, thus making it possible to give more autonomy to individuals suffering from serious motor conditions.

According to Elon Musk, founder of Neuralink, the second chip should be installed by the month of June to get to 10 devices installed by 2024. Since the Arbaugh trial had problems with the chip filaments detaching from the patient's brain, the FDA accepted the proposal to install the next devices more in depth in the brain: 8 millimeters versus Arbaugh's 5 millimeters. At the moment the circle of volunteers for the trial is reduced to approximately 100 candidatesamong which Neuralink will have to choose the most suitable for the next implant and possibly the other 8 who will receive the BCI by the end of the year.

According to a statement released by Neuralink itself, regarding the85% electrodes in the Telepathy chip installed 5 millimeters deep in Noland Arbaugh's brain lost contact due to intra-cranial movements more intense than expected. This resulted in a loss of BCI performance, which Neuralink researchers measure with a very simple test called Webgrid: consists of clicking on colored squares that appear in random positions in a grid (you can also do this on a special page on the Neuralink website). The problem was solved by increasing the sensitivity of the filaments still in place, but for the next patients it was agreed that an installation at 8 millimeters deep will guarantee superior performance while maintaining patient safety.

Despite the difficulties experienced in the period following the detachment of the links, Arbaugh continues to declare himself satisfied with Telepathy: «It has made me more independent and this not only helps me, but also everyone around me. It makes me feel less helpless and less of a burden,” Arbaugh states in an interview with WiredUS. Before the chip was inserted, the only electronic device Arbaugh could control was an iPad which he was able to use by holding a pen with mouth. This method, as well as being inconvenient, did not allow Arbaugh to speak while he was using the device and also risked causing complications such as bedsores and muscle fatigue. Now Arbaugh reports that the disconnection problems have resolved and that he is no longer concerned about the situation.

The next steps? According to Arbaugh, “it would be great if I had a Optimus robot to be checked with the system (…). It would probably eliminate 90% of the things I need other people for, and it could also connect to other devices.”