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Elon Musk's Neuralink is seeking a second person to test its brain chip

Elon Musk's brain implant startup Neuralink is accepting applications for a second human trial participant. Musk is seen here on May 6 in Beverly Hills. (David Swanson / Reuters via CNN Newsource) Elon Musk's brain implant startup Neuralink is accepting applications for a second human trial participant. Musk is seen here on May 6 in Beverly Hills. (David Swanson / Reuters via CNN Newsource)
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Elon Musk’s brain implant startup Neuralink is accepting applications for a second human trial participant to test its device, the billionaire said on X Friday.

The request comes five months after Neuralink implanted a brain chip into its first human trial participant, 30-year-old Noland Arbaugh, and just a week after the company admitted that his implant had experienced an unexpected problem. Neuralink said that the threads connecting the chip to Arbaugh’s brain had retracted, causing performance issues, although the company said it made adjustments to improve its function.

Still, Arbaugh says the implant — which allows him to control a computer cursor with his brain — has changed his life. Arbaugh has been a quadriplegic since 2016 following a diving accident.

“I didn’t have anything to wake up for in the morning, and this has changed that for me,” Arbaugh told Good Morning America in an interview that aired on Friday. “I was just very happy that I would be a part of something that I believe is so monumental. This is the next step forward of helping people with paralysis.”

Now, Neuralink is seeking more people like Arbaugh to test out its brain chip. “If you have quadriplegia and want to explore new ways of controlling your computer, we invite you to participate in our clinical trial,” the company said on X.

Ultimately, Neuralink’s ambition is to use implants to connect human brains to computers to help, for example, paralyzed people to control smartphones or computers or blind people to regain sight. Like existing brain-machine interfaces, the company’s implant would collect electrical signals sent out by the brain and interpret them as actions.

The current trial participants will be part of what Neuralink is calling its PRIME Study, short for Precise Robotically Implanted Brain-Computer Interface. The intent is to study the safety of its implant and surgical robot and to test the functionality of its device, the company said in a 2023 blog post.

The company says it is enrolling trial patients who have “limited or no ability to use both hands due to cervical spinal cord injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).”

Trial patients have chips surgically placed in the part of the brain that controls the intention to move. The chip then records and sends brain signals to an app, with the initial goal being “to grant people the ability to control a computer cursor or keyboard using their thoughts alone,” Neuralink previously explained.

About a month after the operation, Musk said Arbaugh could control a computer mouse with his brain. Neuralink later posted a video showing Arbaugh using only his brain to play chess on a computer.

But after his device developed an unexpected issue stunting its data processing speeds and performance, Arbaugh told Good Morning America that he “cried afterwards.”

“It was very, very hard to give up all of the amazing things that I was able to do,” he said.

However, Neuralink says the issue was part of its learning process.

“The reason we do clinical trials and early feasibility trials is to uncover these sorts of issues as early as possible before they get marketed,” DJ Seo, who co-founded Neuralink with Musk, told Good Morning America. “We rolled up our sleeves and found various different ways for Noland to be able to recover his performance, which we have successfully been able to do.”

Consumers will not have widespread access to the technology anytime soon. Before Neuralink’s brain implants hit the broader market, they’ll need broader regulatory approval.

CNN’s Jordan Valinsky contributed to this report.

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