Neuralink Shares Video of Patient Controls Chess via Brain Implant Signals

Elon Musk’s startup Neuralink broadcasted a live video on Wednesday, showcasing a patient utilizing the company’s brain implant to manipulate a mouse and engage in a game of chess on a computer.

Noland Arbaugh, aged 29, marks the inaugural human recipient of Neuralink’s device. The company is pioneering a brain-computer interface (BCI) designed to assist individuals with severe paralysis in controlling external technologies solely through neural signals.

Musk previously announced Neuralink’s debut product, Telepathy, via a post on his social media platform X back in January.

During Wednesday’s streamed event on X, Arbaugh revealed that he became quadriplegic following a diving accident approximately eight years ago.

He described the surgery for receiving Neuralink’s implant, involving the removal of a portion of the skull to insert electrodes into the brain tissue, as “super easy.” Arbaugh further mentioned his discharge from the hospital the following day.

Neuralink Shares Video of Patient Controls Chess via Brain Implant Signals
Dr. Marco Baptista expresses optimism about Neuralink’s potential impact but calls for scientific transparency.

“It’s not perfect, I would say that we have run into some issues,” Arbaugh remarked. “I don’t want people to think that this is the end of the journey, there’s still a lot of work to be done, but it has already changed my life.”

A BCI operates by deciphering brain signals and translating them into commands for external technologies. With proper functionality, individuals with severe degenerative diseases such as ALS could potentially communicate via text or navigate social media platforms using their thoughts.

Several companies, including Paradromics, Synchron, Blackrock Neurotech, and Precision Neuroscience, have developed BCI systems with these capabilities, many of which have been implanted in human patients. Neuralink stands out prominently in this field, largely due to the high profile of Musk, who serves as CEO of both Tesla and SpaceX.

In many respects, the capabilities showcased by Neuralink in its Wednesday video are not groundbreaking.

Dr. Nader Pouratian, Chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center, noted that researchers have been developing and investigating BCI technology for years.

“There are tasks that we’ve been capable of for decades, such as controlling a cursor in two dimensions, which, is relatively straightforward for those of us immersed in the field, as soon as any brain signal can be obtained,” he shared in an interview with CNBC earlier this month.

Pouratian emphasized the widespread enthusiasm surrounding BCIs but acknowledged a plethora of practical challenges to address, including how to interpret and utilize brain signals effectively. He stressed the importance of transparency from both academia and the broader BCI industry regarding advancements, considering it crucial for progress.

Neuralink commenced recruiting patients for its initial in-human clinical trial during the autumn season after receiving approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in May 2023, as outlined in a blog post.

In January, Musk announced that the company had conducted its inaugural human implantation of the device, with the patient, now identified as Arbaugh, reported to be “recovering well,” as per a post on X.

Apart from Musk’s announcements, Neuralink has divulged scant details regarding the trial’s scope or nature.

Neuralink Shares Video of Patient Controls Chess via Brain Implant Signals
Dr. Nader Pouratian emphasized challenges in BCI technology despite decades of development.

As of Wednesday, the trial does not appear on, the platform where most medical device companies share research details to inform the public and healthcare professionals about their endeavors.

The specifics regarding the number of participating patients in Neuralink’s trial or its objectives remain unclear. The company must undergo multiple rounds of safety and efficacy evaluations before obtaining the FDA’s final approval and proceeding to market.

Dr. Marco Baptista, Chief Scientific Officer of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, which offers support to individuals who have experienced paralysis, expressed optimism about Neuralink’s technology.

He told CNBC in early March that BCI technology could have a significant positive impact on patients. However, he emphasized that, like all emerging devices, Neuralink’s system should be approached with skepticism.

Dr. Baptista stressed the importance of more traditional scientific reports from Neuralink to gain a deeper understanding of its technology. He pointed out that Neuralink is listed as an author on a single white paper from 2019, as indicated by PubMed.

“I’m hopeful that this information will start to come out through these mechanisms that are needed in science, and that is through peer-reviewed publications,” Baptista stated. “That hasn’t happened yet. Other companies are doing it.”

Michael Manua
Michael Manua
Michael, a seasoned market news expert with 29 years of experience, offers unparalleled insights into financial markets. At 61, he has a track record of providing accurate, impactful analyses, making him a trusted voice in financial journalism.
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