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On January 29, 2024, Elon Musk tweeted that the first human had received a Neuralink implant and was recovering well. Fast-forward to Wednesday, March 30, a video surfaced showing the Neuralink implant recipient playing games with nothing but his brain.

First Neuralink Implant Recipient Used It To Play Chess And Civilization 6

It turns out the first Neuralink implant recipient was 29-year-old Noland Arbaugh, a quadriplegic who was involved in a freediving accident about 8 years ago leading to damage to his spinal cord at C4 and C5 vertebrae.

Injury at the C5 vertebrae is known to affect the vocal cords, biceps, and deltoid muscles in the upper arms. On the other hand, C4 provides sensation for parts of the upper arms, shoulders, and neck. Therefore, an injury to the C4 and C5 vertebrae will lead to the partial or total loss of these functions. The injury left Arbaugh paralyzed from below the shoulders.

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In the livestream, Arbaugh was seen moving chess pieces with nothing but his brain, or as he said, “It’s all brain power”. He was asked to explain to people who may not have contact on the field what was going on and how he could move the cursor.

“We started out with trying out a few different things,” said Arbaugh. “We basically went from kind of differentiating from imagining movement versus attempted movement. So, a lot of what we saw was attempting movement. So, I wanna attempt to move say my right hand, left, right, forward, back, and from there it just became intuitive for me to start imagining the cursor moving.”

Arbaugh explained what he did with the Neuralink implant the first time

 

First Neuralink Implant Recipient Used It To Play Chess And Civilization 6

The Neuralink engineer who started the livestream was curious to know what Arbaugh used the Neuralink implant to do besides just playing chess.

“One of the first times that y’all gave me complete control over this, I actually stayed up until, like jeez, I don’t know, like 6 am playing Civilization 6,” Arbaugh said. “It was worth it, I think is the best way to put it, it was awesome. I basically had given up on playing that game.”

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Arbaugh added that it was a big game and that “the amount of time that it takes to sit in on it is, it’s just a lot that I have to worry about a lot of things. So, I wasn’t able to play it as much as I wanted to. Y’all gave me the ability to do that again and I played it like 8 hours that day… It was awesome.”

Asked why he couldn’t play Civilization 6 before and what changed after the Neuralink implant. Arbaugh said the depth of the game meant that he needed assistance from someone which made long sessions almost impossible.

First Neuralink Implant Recipient Used It To Play Chess And Civilization 6

“Now I can literally just lie in bed and play to my heart’s content,” Arbaugh said. “Honestly, the biggest restriction at this point was having to wait for the implant to charge once I had used all of it. So, play for eight hours, have to get off and let it charge for a while, and then hopefully be able to play some more.”

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Arbaugh said that the device was not perfect and that there was still a lot of work to be done. However, he noted that it had already changed his life. Furthermore, he encouraged those who want to apply for a human trial that there is nothing to be afraid of. According to him, the surgery was fast, and he was released from the hospital a day later.

He also noted that the surgery didn’t cause any cognitive impairment. Neuralink said they will release more details about the success of the Neuralink implant in the coming days. The clinical trial is now open to U.S. and Canadian patients. Check the Patient Registry to see if you qualify.

The long-term goal of Neuralink implants

First Neuralink Implant Recipient Used It To Play Chess And Civilization 6

Data showing how Arbaugh has used the Neuralink implant

While being able to control cursors with the brain is already a big leap, Elon Musk said the long-term goal is to restore mobility to those who were paralyzed for one reason or another.

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“Long-term, it is possible to shunt the signals from the brain motor cortex past the damaged part of the spine to enable people to walk again and use their arms normally,” Musk commented on the Neuralink video of Arbaugh playing chess.

Arbaugh’s journey so far is a great leap that will change the fate of those with disability in the future. What do you think about the Neuralink implant success so far? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.


Anthony Emecheta

Anthony Emecheta has over a decade experience as a freelance writer. Gaming has always been a childhood hobby and he is excited to be collaborating with a gaming company as a content creator. It is like having all the things he loves in one place.

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