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Were Setbacks for Brain Chip Implant Patient Unexpected?

Posted on May 27, 2024

A lot of recent media attention focused on the success of a paralyzed patient’s chip implant, allowing him to play games online with his mind. But a recent problem resulted in a major setback

Nolan Arbaugh, who is 29 years old, was the first person to have a chip surgically implanted in his brain. He is participating in a six-year trial to test the safety of the chip, which was developed by a company named Neuralink. Arbaugh is a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the shoulders down due to a diving accident. With 1,000 electrodes programmed to gather data, the chip was designed to transform Arbaugh’s thoughts to actions. In a media event, he demonstrated how he could use his thoughts to play an online chess game and toggle a music stream on and off. 

As with some new technologies, the initial success was followed by a bump in the road. The device has apparently begun to detach from Arbaugh’s skull, which reduces the data that it can collect. In response, the company modified the device to be more sensitive to neural signals. They considered removing the implant but did not, since it doesn’t pose a direct safety risk to Arbaugh. 

However, a report from the New York Post claimed the problem was not unexpected. The chip apparently had issues for years before it was implanted in humans, with the tiny wires detaching when implanted in animals. While Neuralink deemed the risk too low to warrant a redesign, the article noted that anchoring the threads to the brain is a risk in and of itself, as it has the potential to cause brain tissue damage if dislodged. The Food & Drug Administration was made aware of the issue.

While technologies to support disabilities area always changing, one thing after a spinal cord injury is always certain: getting funds for special needs and care can make all the difference between a life of hardship or one of support,

Tom Duffy has been a member of the board of Magee Rehabilitation Foundation for over 20 years. He is keenly aware of developments in spinal cord care and has obtained 8-figure verdicts for people who have suffered spinal cord injuries in Philadelphia. 

Please contact us if you would like to discuss the details of your case.