Noland Arbaugh
Musk's brain chip implant shows promise. First user controls devices with thought. Stable design paves way for more volunteers and future advancements. Twitter / Evan Kirstel #B2B #TechFluencer @EvanKirstel

Elon Musk revealed that Neuralink is gearing up to implant its brain chip device in a second individual. The surgery is scheduled for "the next week or so."

Despite initial worries about the stability of Neuralink's brain implant, Noland Arbaugh, the first recipient's positive experience, described the procedure as "amazing" and "rewarding," alleviating some concerns from doubters.

Additionally, the tiny wires appear to be securely anchored within the brain tissue since the January implantation in Arbaugh, a 30-year-old who became paralysed from the shoulders down after a 2016 accident.

During a recent live stream on social media platform X, Musk and his team emphasised the crucial role of stability for long-term functionality and safety. They reported positive news, stating the chip's tiny wires have achieved "more or less very stable" positioning.

Shifting Surgical Techniques

This development follows the recent departure of Neuralink co-founder Benjamin Rapoport, who reportedly cited safety concerns as a reason for leaving the company led by Musk. Initial anxieties about implant stability surfaced in May when some of the delicate electrodes (tiny wires) implanted in Arbaugh's brain shifted out of place.

These dislodged electrodes posed a significant risk to the trial's progress. To rectify these connection problems, Neuralink implemented modifications that improved the implant's interface with Arbaugh's nervous system.

Neuralink executive Dongjin "D.J." Seo explained: "Once you do the brain surgery it takes some time for the tissues to come in and anchor the threads in place, and once that happens, everything has been stable."

In an effort to further mitigate surgical risks, Neuralink is incorporating modifications to the procedure. These refinements include skull sculpting for enhanced implant fit and optimising blood CO2 levels during surgery.

"In upcoming implants," explained Matthew MacDougall, Neuralink's head of neurosurgery, "our plan is to sculpt the surface of the skull very intentionally to minimise the gap under the implant... that will put it closer to the brain and eliminate some of the tension on the threads."

Towards A More Streamlined Device

Musk's Neuralink is at the forefront of advancements in brain-computer interfaces. Their human trials are testing an implant designed to empower individuals with paralysis to control digital devices using their thoughts.

A Neuralink blog post discussed BCI use, highlighting Noland's experience. Weekdays involve research sessions for up to eight hours, while weekends can see personal use surpass ten hours daily.

Notably, he recently used the device for a total of 69 hours in one week, with 35 hours dedicated to structured sessions and an additional 34 hours for personal activities.

Neuralink's coin-sized implant houses over 1,000 hair-thin wires that interface with the brain, deciphering and translating neural signals into computer commands. A convenient wireless charger keeps it powered up for uninterrupted use.

Currently, Arbaugh, an Arizona resident, is the pioneering recipient. However, by year's end, Musk anticipates expanding the trial to a select group of 6-9 individuals.

Musk has emphasised that the implant is designed to be biocompatible. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also meticulously reviewed the device before granting approval for human trials.

The positive experience of the first recipient further strengthens the initial indications of good tolerability and early results are indeed encouraging. The first participant has achieved remarkable progress, now controlling video games and a computer cursor using only his thoughts.

In May, Arbaugh became the first person to send a tweet directly through his brain signals. According to Reuters, Neuralink isn't resting on its laurels.

They're already developing a next-generation implant design with a more streamlined electrode array. This advancement has the potential to further enhance the capabilities of brain-computer interfaces in the future.

Neuralink's vision extends beyond current applications. Their "Blindsight" project is a bold initiative designed to restore sight through artificial means, offering hope to visually impaired individuals.