First Neuralink patient lauds technology despite setback

First Neuralink patient lauds technology despite setback

Neuralink Patient

Noland Arbaugh, paralyzed from the neck down due to an accident, is the first patient to take part in the clinical trial of Elon Musk’s Neuralink device. Four months ago, Arbaugh underwent a procedure where a circle of bone was removed from his skull and hair-thin sensor tentacles were inserted into his brain. A computer about the size of a small stack of quarters was placed on top, sealing the hole. At first, Arbaugh’s progress showed promise. The 30-year-old worked with engineers to train computer programs to translate the firing of neurons in his brain into cursor movements. His command was so precise that he could challenge his stepfather at Mario Kart and play an empire-building video game late into the night. However, complications arose when about 85 percent of the device’s tendrils slipped out of his brain weeks later. Neuralink’s team had to retool the system to help him regain control of the cursor, requiring a new method for clicking. Despite advice against surgery to replace the threads, Arbaugh reported that the situation had stabilized.

neuralink journey: patient’s perspective and setbacks

The setback became public earlier this month, initially causing disappointment. However, Arbaugh remains optimistic, emphasizing that the experience has been worthwhile as Neuralink continues to advance toward helping individuals regain speech, sight, or movement. “I was at peace with it all,” Arbaugh said, recounting the surgery in January. He expressed tremendous trust in the surgical team and nurses, describing them as “excellent people in their fields” who answered all his questions thoroughly. Arbaugh acknowledged the risks involved, stating, “I told my parents that if I became mentally handicapped, I wouldn’t want them to take care of me anymore.”

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Since the surgery, Arbaugh has been using the implant to interact on social media, message people, reply to emails, book hotels, and even learn Japanese. The device connects to his computer using Bluetooth, allowing him to control it with the Neuralink app. “It’s made me a better texter and more capable of interacting with people on social media. I feel like what I’m doing every day is going to affect people forever after this,” Arbaugh said. Noland Arbaugh’s journey with Neuralink underscores the potential of brain-chip technology and its implications for future medical and technological advancements, despite the challenges faced along the way.


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