Decoding the Brain: Neuralink User’s Journey with a Brain-Computer Interface

Noland Arbaugh, who had been paralyzed below the neck since a 2016 swimming accident, was implanted with the Neuralink chip in January 2023, becoming the first human subject in Neuralink’s FDA-approved trial. Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) have been in development for decades, but Neuralink’s high-profile status has drawn renewed attention to their potential to aid those with disabilities or neurodegenerative disorders.
BCIs function by interpreting electrical activity in the brain and translating it into commands, such as opening and closing a robotic hand or controlling a mouse cursor. Neuralink’s implant, the N1 or “the Link,” is an intracortical device, meaning it uses electrodes implanted directly into the brain tissue. This allows for a much closer proximity to the targeted neurons, resulting in more precise control.
Arbaugh’s implant has had a profound impact on his life, enabling him to “reconnect with the world.” He can now move a digital cursor within a week of the surgery using either attempted movement, where he wills his paralyzed limb to move, or imagined movement, where he visualizes the cursor’s path. These methods allow him to multitask, operating his computer while simultaneously talking or eating.
Neuralink’s device has achieved remarkable accuracy and speed in Arbaugh’s case, allowing him to control the cursor at eight bits per second. Arbaugh spends hours at a time browsing the web, texting, and playing video games, highlighting the potential for BCIs to restore independence and enhance the quality of life for individuals with disabilities.
Although the device requires regular charging and experienced a temporary hardware issue, Arbaugh remains optimistic about the future of BCI technology and its potential to improve the lives of others like him. He believes that the setbacks he has experienced will contribute to the refinement of the technology, paving the way for even more advanced and effective BCIs in the future.

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