Neuralink knew about implant design flaw, report says

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Neuralink was founded in 2016 by Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
Image: Dado Ruvic (Reuters)

Elon Musk’s brain chip startup has known about a design flaw in its brain implant’s electrode-containing threads for years, according to a new report.

The issue arose last week when Neuralink said that the some threads, which are used to record neural activity, retracted from the brain of the first participant in the company’s ongoing clinical trial. But on Tuesday, Reuters reported the company had known this was a risk all along.

Sources familiar with the matter told the outlet that Neuralink knew from previous animal testing that the threads, which are thinner than a human hair, could retract, along with electrodes used to read brain signals. The sources added that Neuralink did not deem the risk sufficient enough to merit a redesign.

Neuralink did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The unamed sources also said that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was aware of the risk when it approved the company’s implant for human trials last year.

Neuralink is testing its implant on people with paralysis with the aim to help them be able to use devices like a smartphone or computer with just their thoughts. The startup implanted its device on its first patient, 29-year-old quadriplegic Noland Arbaugh, in February. Arbaugh has been able to use Neuralink’s implant to to play video games like Mario Kart, Civilization, and chess.

Last week, Neuralink said some of the threads, each containing 64 electrodes, from its device retracted Arbaugh’s brain, decreasing the implant’s ability to read brain activity. Neuralink wrote that it was able to adjust the device’s algorithm to increase its sensitivity to brain signals.

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