Mar 21, 2024 - Technology

Neuralink patient: Brain chip "not perfect," but it has "changed my life"

 In this photo illustration, a silhouetted woman holds a smartphone with the Neuralink logo displayed on the screen.

Neuralink logo displayed on a phone screen. Photo illustration: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Elon Musk shared video from his computer-brain interface company Neuralink announcing the "first-ever" human user of its brain implant, a 29-year-old man with quadriplegia who said the device has enabled him to play online chess and video games.

The big picture: It's one of several brain-computer interface devices being developed that companies hope will someday treat neurological disorders.

  • Brain-computer-interface (BCI) research has been going on for decades, but it's been in the spotlight in recent years following heavy investment from billionaires.
  • In addition to Musk's Neuralink, the brain implant startup Synchron, backed by Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates, announced last September that its BCI device was implanted into its first six patients.

What he's saying: Neuralink patient Noland Arbaugh said during a brief video livestream posted to X that the surgery to implant the device was "super easy."

  • "It's not perfect. I would say we have run into some issues," said Arbaugh in the video that appeared to show him playing online chess with his mind.
  • "There's a lot of work to be done, but it has already changed my life ... I feel like it's going to change the world," he added about the device that has drawn scrutiny over earlier animal testing.

Zoom out: The Food and Drug Administration cleared Neuralink to begin human trials on its brain-implant technology last May, while Synchron won FDA approval for human testing in 2021 and completed patient enrollment for its clinical trial in September.

  • Meanwhile, Mass General Brigham, a Boston-based nonprofit integrated health care system, said this month it's "establishing the Implantable Brain-Computer Interface Collaborative Community (iBCI-CC)" — the "first Collaborative Community in the clinical neurosciences that has participation" from the FDA.

Go deeper: How Elon Musk's Neuralink brain chip got approval for a human trial

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