June 18, 2024

Neuralink is planning to extend the trial to 10 people this year, allowing them to interact with a computer using their thoughts.

The US health regulator has granted permission to Elon Musk’s Neuralink to implant a brain chip in a second patient despite some initial issues with the first test subject, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

The brain-chip startup received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conduct a trial with a second patient using a modified procedure after the company proposed to fix a problem that occurred with its first test subject, the outlet said.

The chip, which is named Telepathy, was successfully implanted for the first time last February. It allowed 30-year-old quadriplegic Noland Arbaugh to control a computer mouse using his thoughts with “no ill effects,” according to the neurotechnology company.

The surgery involved a specially designed robot placing the computer chip – which is about the size of a coin with ultra-thin flexible threads – in the region of the brain that controls the intention to move, Neuralink explained. The chip was then used to record and transmit brain signals wirelessly to an app that decodes movement intention.

Earlier this month, Neuralink said tiny wires implanted in the brain of its first patient had been pulled out of position. Last week, Reuters reported that the company had known from animal testing that the wires, which are thinner than a strand of human hair, could retract, along with the electrodes used to read brain signals

READ MORE: First Neuralink patient controls computer mouse with thoughts – Musk

With the second patient, the quarter-sized chip will be implanted deeper into the brain to prevent it from retracting, according to the WSJ.

Neuralink expects to implant its device in the second patient in June, and another eight people will participate in further trials before the end of this year, the report said. More than 1,000 quadriplegics have signed up for its patient registry.

The startup has claimed that the ultimate goal of the project, dubbed the PRIME Study, is to develop a “fully implantable, wireless brain-computer interface” that would give people the ability to control a computer cursor or keyboard using their thoughts alone. This would later make way for groundbreaking treatments for people suffering from physical disabilities such as paralysis and blindness, as well as illnesses like obesity, autism, depression, and schizophrenia.

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