Elon Musk’s brain implant company Neuralink has struggled with a problem with its first patient. In the weeks following the operation in January, some of the electrodes became detached from the man’s brain, Neuralink admitted in a blog post on Wednesday.

However, this was compensated for by adapting the software. Neuralink only made the problem public after the Wall Street Journal found out about it and asked the company.

Neuralink’s implant is intended to make it possible to use your thoughts to operate a smartphone – and other technology. The company received permission in May 2023 to use the flat and round implant on people in a clinical study. The technology had previously been tested on monkeys. The implant has 1,024 electrodes that a robot connects to the brain using an extremely fine needle. For the clinical trial, Neuralink looked for patients with quadriplegia – a paraplegia that affects the legs and arms.

Imagining movement should be enough

When people start to move, a certain area of ​​the brain becomes active. The electrodes collect these signals. It should be enough to imagine a movement in order to operate a cursor on the computer. According to the company, the first patient with the Neuralink implant will be able to surf the Internet, play chess and the video game “Mario Kart,” among other things.

Because of the detached electrodes, the precision and speed of cursor operation initially decreased, Neuralink stated. In response, the algorithm for detecting brain activity has been made more sensitive and the technology that translates it into cursor movements has been improved. After the software adjustment, the accuracy values ​​were higher than before, it said in the blog entry.

No information on the reasons

Neuralink did not provide any information about the reasons for the electrodes being removed. According to the Wall Street Journal, one of the company’s theories was that air may have remained in the skull after the operation. The study is being overseen by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Research into similar types of brain-computer interfaces has been going on for years and some people have already had various implants inserted. Neuralink also has several competitors who also want to use the technology commercially.