100 days later, Neuralink’s first human patient is now using his brain implant to play Slay the Spire

The first human recipient of a Neuralink implant plays Slay the Spire, Old School RuneScape and a host of other popular games using the implant to translate his neural signals.

Elon Musk’s neurotech company also revealed in a new update that a number of the threads carrying the implanted electrode had retracted from the patient’s brain, resulting in a temporary decline in brain-computer interface (BCI) performance.

Last January, Elon Musk, co-founder of Neuralink, announced that the company had implanted the first “N1” brain chip in the head of a human patient as part of a robotic implantable brain-computer interface (prime minister) Stady. The patient was later revealed to be a 29-year-old American quadriplegic, Noland Arbaugh, who had paralysis below the shoulders after sustaining a spinal injury during a diving accident about eight years earlier.

During the surgery, a circular portion of the skull was removed to give a specialist robot access to part of Arbaugh’s brain. The robot used a needle thinner than a human hair to insert an array of 64 very fine threads carrying electrodes into the gray matter. These newly installed sensors are designed to detect the patient’s nerve signals, and send the resulting data via threads to the main body of the N1 implant, which is fixed in the cranial gap created during the surgical procedure. Signals from the implant are then transmitted to the Neuralink app, which is trained to decode the intent behind the information and turn it into actionable actions, such as the movement of a computer cursor.

“I beat my friends at games that I, as a quadriplegic, shouldn’t beat them at.

Before surgery, Arbo had to rely on a mouth wand — an assistive device that allows the user to press a touch screen once placed in the mouth — to play games and interact with the digital world. While this allowed Arbo to use an iPad, it came with a set of drawbacks. For example, to be able to use a mouth stick, he had to sit upright and have a caregiver give him the tool. Furthermore, he was unable to speak properly while using it, and prolonged use would cause cramps and lead to pressure sores.

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“I thought the Mouthstick was much better than BCI a month ago, and when we compared it I saw that BCI was just as good, if not better, and it’s still improving; the games I can play now are much better than before.” Neuralink blog update On the occasion of the 100th day since his surgery. “I beat my friends at games that I, as a quadriplegic, shouldn’t beat them at.”

Neuralink revealed that Arbo recently used the brain-computer interface for 69 hours in one week, including 34 hours for recreational purposes. During this time, Arbaugh used assistive technology to surf the Internet, learn new languages, and play a range of video games, including the rogue-like deck-building game Slay the Spire, Old School RuneScape, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Sid Meier’s Civilization. 6, all by manipulating the cursor with his mind. Scientists are also working on a custom gaming function within the Neuralink app, which is designed to give Arbaugh greater freedom over how and when he can connect and play games.

Within 100 days after surgery, Arbo set what Neuralink described as “a new world record for human brain interface index control.” He is currently able to use the interface to record a value of 8.0 bits per second (BPS), a measurement used by the scientific community to evaluate the accuracy and speed of computer cursor movements. For context, Neuralink engineers recorded about 10 bits per second using an actual mouse — a result that Arbaugh is looking to better in the coming months.

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The company also revealed that an unspecified number of electrode-carrying leads inserted into Arbaugh’s head during the N1 implant’s placement had “retracted” from his brain in the weeks following the surgery. The movement of the thread forced Neuralink scientists to modify the algorithm responsible for collecting and translating neural data, which the company says compensated for the loss in performance.

Arbaud named the implant Eve. Image credit: Noland Arbo/X.

IGN has reached out to Neuralink for comment on whether thread pulling is an expected complication, and whether the development could in any way impact the patient’s health, and will update this article to reflect any subsequent response.

Going forward, Neuralink is looking to increase Arbaugh’s ability to control the cursor — in part by combating a known problem known as “cursor drift,” which is combated through the development of a “bias correction” system — and by adding new functionality. More specifically, the researchers hope to allow users to control physical external aids, such as robotic arms and wheelchairs using just the link, which in turn may help quadriplegic patients gain a greater degree of independence.

Follow our previous coverage for the latest information on Neuralink for human testing and past controversies surrounding animal testing complaints.

Anthony is a freelance contributor covering science and video game news for IGN. He has over eight years of experience covering breaking developments in multiple scientific fields and has absolutely no time to fool you. Follow him on Twitter @BeardConGamer

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