Paralysed patient plays chess with mind-controlled cursor

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    21st March 2024 – (California) Elon Musk’s pioneering neurotechnology firm Neuralink has reached a significant milestone by successfully demonstrating a paralysed patient engaging in online chess using a brain-implanted chip. The event, broadcast live, showcased the potential of advanced neural interfaces in restoring independence to individuals with severe mobility impairments.

    Noland Arbaugh, 29, who suffered a life-altering injury resulting in paralysis from the shoulders down, has become the first person to publicly use Neuralink’s brain chip for digital interaction. Arbaugh, who received the implant in January, demonstrated control over a computer cursor solely through his thoughts—a capability heralded by Musk in recent statements.

    During the live stream on Musk’s social media platform X, Arbaugh, who described the surgical process as “super easy,” celebrated his swift recovery and the absence of any cognitive side effects. “I was discharged from the hospital the very next day,” he noted.

    The significance of Arbaugh’s achievement becomes personal as he recounts his renewed ability to play Civilisation VI, a strategy game he thought he had lost forever. “You all [at Neuralink] gave me the ability to do that again, and I played for eight hours straight,” Arbaugh expressed, highlighting the profound impact of Neuralink’s technology on individual lives.

    While Neuralink’s demonstration represents a remarkable human interest story, some experts, including Kip Ludwig, former neural engineering program director at the US National Institutes of Health, caution against declaring it a scientific breakthrough. Ludwig acknowledges the early stages of this technology and the steep learning curve ahead for both Neuralink and the subjects of their implants. Nonetheless, he recognizes the impressive progress made, asserting, “It’s certainly a good starting point.”

    Neuralink’s achievement comes amid scrutiny from regulatory bodies. Last month, reports surfaced of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration uncovering discrepancies in record-keeping and quality control during animal trials at Neuralink. This revelation emerged shortly after the company announced FDA approval to commence human trials. Neuralink has not publicly addressed these findings.

    The live stream of Arbaugh’s chess game transcends a mere technological exhibition; it signals a potential paradigm shift in how society may support those with severe physical disabilities in the future. As Neuralink continues to refine its technology, the implications for the fields of medicine, accessibility, and human-machine interaction are vast and could herald a new era of autonomy and empowerment for many.