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Neuralink’s first human subject controls games with brain implant

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Photo: rafapress /

Neuralink, the brain-machine interface company founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk, has achieved a major breakthrough by implanting its first human subject with a brain implant. The recipient, identified as Noland Arbaugh, a 29-year-old man paralysed from the shoulders down for eight years following a diving accident, demonstrated his ability to play online chess and the video game Civilization using the Neuralink device.

This marks a significant step in Neuralink’s goal of enabling paralysed individuals to interact with computers and other devices through brain signals.

Neuralink was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last year to conduct an initial human trial and commenced the recruitment of paralysed participants for testing. Despite facing criticism over the lack of transparency regarding details such as the number of subjects enrolled and assessment outcomes, Neuralink has persisted in advancing its technology.

The live stream, which was brief and limited in technical specifics, highlighted Arbaugh’s experience with the brain-computer interface. Although brief and lacking in detailed technical information, it highlighted Arbaugh’s learning process with the brain-computer interface.

“I would attempt to move, say, my right hand left, right, forward, back, and from there, I think it just became intuitive for me to start imagining the cursor moving,” said Arbaugh.

In a previous communication on X, Elon Musk announced the successful implementation and recovery of the first human subject, who demonstrated the ability to control a computer mouse using their thoughts. Musk expressed optimism about the patient’s full recovery without any reported adverse effects.

While Neuralink’s achievement represents a significant milestone in brain-machine interface technology, challenges remain, including concern about the treatment of animals in research and ongoing technical refinements for widespread adoption.

However, the patient seems to enjoy the procedure and the results. “I think, like, there’s nothing to be afraid of,” he said. “The surgery was super easy. I literally was released from the hospital a day later.”

Numerous companies compete to bring brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) to the commercial market. For instance, Synchro, a competitor in this space, is working on a stent-like device surgically inserted into the jugular vein and positioned against the brain. Wired reported that this New York-based company achieved a significant milestone by implanting its first subject in 2019.

However, no company other than Neuralink has received approval from the FDA.

Neuralink’s journey has not been smooth so far. “I don’t want people to think that this is the end of the journey. There’s a lot of work to be done,” said Arbaugh.

As the technology develops, it can have many benefits. “Long-term, it is possible to shunt the signals from the brain motor cortex past the damaged part of the spine to enable people to walk again and use their arms normally,” tweeted Elon Musk.

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Kumar Hemant

Kumar Hemant

Deputy Editor at Candid.Technology. Hemant writes at the intersection of tech and culture and has a keen interest in science, social issues and international relations. You can contact him here: