Neuralink patient masters mind-mouse maneuvers – if Musk is to be believed

Brain-computer interface trial continues to display troubling lack of transparency

Founder Elon Musk has announced that the first human to receive a Neuralink brain-computer interface has fully recovered and can control a computer mouse pointer with their thoughts.

There were no ill effects "that we're aware of," the billionaire reported during a Spaces conference call on X (formerly Twitter).

As well as noting that the patient could control the mouse pointer, Musk went on to say that the next step would be to detect mouse button events. "Overall, it's looking very good," he added.

The first patient in Neuralink's Precise Robotically Implanted Brain-Computer Interface (PRIME) study received their implant at the end of January, and the purpose of the interface is to decode movement signals from brain activity. According to Neuralink [PDF], a surgical robot is used to implant the N1 device in a region of the brain that controls movement intention.

Details regarding the patient remain scarce. Neuralink's eligibility criteria for the PRIME study calls for patients that have quadriplegia – limited function in all four limbs – due to spinal cord injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and to have gone at least a year without improvement.

The PRIME trial will last for six years, according to Neuralink. However, precious little about it has been made public other than a brochure on the company's website. A glance on shows a variety of brain-computer interface (BCI) trials, yet there is nothing from Neuralink, which represents a troubling lack of transparency.

Sharing information about clinical trials is vital in the development of treatments since it allows investigators to learn what does and does not work. It also ensures that results receive proper scrutiny. Science by tweet is, in comparison, a poor substitute.

We asked Neuralink for more information about the PRIME trial. Other than a description of the "cosmetically invisible" implant – 1,024 electrodes distributed over 64 threads – there is little information available. The primary study will take 18 months and involve a combination of nine at-home and in-person clinic visits followed by a five-year follow-up.

However, there is no information on what might constitute an adverse reaction nor how the implant would be removed if required. The study lasts six years, and the conditions it hopes to treat are lifelong. Compassionate use can come into play after a trial concludes, where a patient has received benefit from a treatment but no approved alternatives exist. ®

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