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First human Neuralink patient appears to show how brain implant works

Elon Musk's startup company shared video claiming to show a quadriplegic patient playing digital chess and operating electronics by using his mind.
First human Neuralink patient appears to show how brain implant works
Posted at 11:42 AM, Mar 21, 2024

Elon Musk's startup neurotechnology company Neuralink has shared new footage that purportedly shows the first patient with a brain-implanted device demonstrating how it works.

Neuralink posted a video on social media Wednesday introducing 29-year-old Noland Arbaugh as the "first telekinetic" human with the company's implanted brain–computer interface. Arbaugh explains that he is a quadriplegic who was paralyzed from the shoulders down in a "freak diving accident" about eight years ago, but is now able to control a computer cursor — and play digital chess — just by using his mind.

"I love playing chess and so this is one of the things that y'all [Neuralink] have enabled me to do, something I wasn't able to really do much the last few years, especially not like this," Arbaugh said. "I have used like a mouth stick and stuff, but now it's all being done with my brain. Y'all can see the cursor moving around the screen. That's all me."

A Neuralink engineer filming the video then asks Arbaugh if he can pause the music that is playing in the background, which he is also seemingly able to do without moving any of his limbs.

"It's all brain power," Arbaugh said.

In addition to playing chess, Arbaugh goes on to explain that he's also used Neuralink to play other video games for several hours on end — something he wasn't able to do before.

"It just wasn't really feasible [before] for me to play a full game or anything, and now I can just lie in bed and play to my heart's content," Arbaugh said. "Honestly, the biggest restriction at this point was like having to wait for the implant to charge once I used all of it. So, play for eight hours, have to get off and let it charge for a while and then hopefully be able to play some more."

SEE MORE: First human Neuralink patient can move a mouse cursor, Elon Musk says

Billionaire Musk, who founded Neuralink in 2016, shared the video of Arbaugh on his social media site X saying it demonstrated "telepathy." According to Neuralink's website, the company's mission statement is to "create a generalized brain interface to restore autonomy to those with unmet medical needs today and unlock human potential tomorrow."  

Neuralink was granted FDA approval for a human study on brain implants back in May 2023. This came as the company was reportedly under investigation for animal cruelty allegations during the preliminary testing phase of the technology.  

The nonprofit organization Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine issued a statement calling for an investigation into the biotech company in September 2023 after the death of a dozen monkeys on which the brain implant was being tested.

Scripps News reached out to Neuralink for more information about the implant and patient, but has not yet received a response. The company's claim that its brain-implanted device can provide telekinetic capabilities for humans has not been independently verified.

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