Elon Musk is looking for a second candidate to test his Neuralink brain chip

(CNN) — Elon Musk’s brain implant startup Neuralink is accepting applications for a second human trial participant to test its device, the billionaire announced on Channel X on Friday.

The call came five months after Neuralink implanted a brain chip in the study’s first participant, 30-year-old Noland Arbaugh, and just a week after the company admitted there had been an unexpected problem with its implant. Neuralink said the threads connecting the chip to Arbo’s brain had retracted, causing performance issues, although the company said it had made changes to improve its performance.

However, Arbaugh says the implant, which allows him to control a computer cursor with his brain, has changed his life. Arbaugh became a quadriplegic in 2016 after a diving accident.

“I had no reason to wake up in the morning, and that changed things for me,” Arbaugh told “Good Morning America” ​​in an interview that aired Friday. “I was very happy to be a part of something that I think is so monumental. This is the next step in helping people with paralysis.”

Now Neuralink is looking for more people like Arbo to test its brain chip. “If you have quadriplegia and want to learn new ways to control your computer, we invite you to participate in our clinical study,” the company wrote in X.

Ultimately, Neuralink’s goal is to use implants to connect human brains to computers to help, for example, paralyzed people control smartphones or computers or blind people regain their sight. Like existing brain-machine interfaces, the company’s implant will collect electrical signals sent by the brain and interpret them as actions.

Current trial participants will be part of what Neuralink calls its PRIME Study, short for Precision Robotic Implanted Brain-Computer Interface. The goal is to study the safety of its implant and surgical robot and test the functionality of its device, the company said in a 2023 blog post.

The company says it is enrolling patients in the study who have “limited or absent use of both arms due to cervical spinal cord injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).”

Patients participating in the study have chips surgically implanted in the part of the brain that controls the intention to move. The chip then records and sends brain signals to an app, with the initial goal of “enabling people to control a computer cursor or keyboard using only their thoughts,” as Neuralink previously explained.

About a month after the surgery, Musk said Arbo could control a computer mouse with his brain. Neuralink later published a video of Arbo using only his brain to play chess on a computer.

But after her device encountered an unexpected problem that slowed processing speed and performance, Arbaugh told Good Morning America she “broke to tears.”

“It was very, very difficult to give up all the great things I was able to do,” he said.

However, Neuralink claims that the problem was part of the learning process.

“The reason we do clinical trials and initial feasibility studies is to catch problems like this as early as possible before they go to market,” DJ Seo, who co-founded Neuralink with Musk, told Good Morning America. “We rolled up our sleeves and found several different ways to get Noland back on his game, which we were able to do successfully.”

In the short term, the general public will not have widespread access to this technology. Neuralink’s brain implants will need broader regulatory approval before they hit the market.

CNN’s Jordan Walinsky contributed to this report.

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