Neuralink video reveals behind-the-scenes of the first N1 interface implantation

Neuralink began to look for additional candidates for its neural interface, and on this occasion, a new video about the first implantation appeared on X and YouTube. Noland Arbaugh, the first user of the N1 interface, talks about his injury and the difficult life after it. Engineers who worked closely with him are also shown, capturing many amazing moments of this historic event. In this article, we will comment on the most interesting ones.

The following screenshots from the video are arranged chronologically, not in the order in which we can see them in the video.

How did Noland live before the implantation?

Noland has been unable to control his body from the neck down. He could do nothing without someone’s help. Here we see him controlling his tablet using the so-called mouth stick.

Arrival at the hospital

Noland arrives at the Barrow Neurological Institute, where his implantation took place. It is a specialized neurological clinic based in Phoenix, Arizona, focusing on researching new treatment methods, especially in neurology. The tube in his mouth is used to control the wheelchair. It works on the principle of sucking and blowing into it. If you blow hard, the wheelchair moves forward; if you blow lightly, it turns right. When you suck hard from it, the wheelchair goes backward, and if you suck lightly, it turns left. Noland is accompanied by his mother and stepfather.

Noland in the operating room

The last moments before the surgery. Noland was most likely operated on by Dr. Matthew MacDougal, chief surgeon of Neuralink. The electrode threads were implanted by the neurosurgical robot R1. The surgery lasted less than two hours, and the patient was discharged from the hospital the next day.

Preparation for surgery

In the picture, we can see the following people (from left): Francisco Ponce, head of stereotactic and functional neurosurgery at Barrow Neurological, Dan Adams, neuroscientist at Neuralink, Nir Even-Chen, head of Neuralink’s interface section.

Elon Musk was also present at Barrow

Elon Musk was personally present at Barrow Neurological during the first implantation. Here, Nir Even-Chen is likely showing him on a brain model where the implant will be placed. On the far right, with glasses and a cap, sits Avinash Jois, a Neuralink chip developer.

Operating room

This is what the operating room looked like. In the middle, we see the neurosurgical robot R1, which implanted 1024 electrodes in 64 threads of the N1 interface into Noland’s head.

Implantation area

Here, the brain area where the electrodes were implanted is shown. Before the implantation, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to precisely identify the brain area that is active when the patient tries to move his hand and arm. Noland has the implant in the left half of his brain.

Robot R1 implants electrode threads

The robot is a very complex system consisting of many subunits and using artificial intelligence (computer vision). We have released an entire series about it (in Czech). In the middle of the picture, we see the implantation needle with a captured electrode fiber.

Immediately after surgery

As can be seen from the photos, not long after the surgery, still in the hospital, Noland was already testing the charging of the implant and learning to work with it with the help of Neuralink employees. In the photo on the left, we see software developer Bliss Chapman (in the black sweater), and Avinash Jois (in the white shirt).


First brain signals captured

From the picture, it seems that during the surgery, Neuralink specialists were already collecting signals from the interface in Noland’s brain.

Noland’s charger and second implant

A shot from Noland’s house. We see the interface charger (we published a detailed article about it in Czech) and a special case containing the N1 implant. Perhaps Noland received it as a keepsake?

Breaking the interface transfer speed record

Here we see the moment when Noland first broke the record for interface transfer speed. This happened on the first day he began intensively testing the implant.

Neuralink engineers at Noland’s home

Nir Even-Chen (left) and Bliss Chapman (center) at Noland’s home. After the surgery, Noland’s family initially rented an apartment near Neuralink’s headquarters in Fremont, California, but later the tests moved to their residence in Arizona. Now, most tests are conducted remotely.

Noland playing Mario Kart

We previously saw that Noland controlled not only a computer cursor using the interface but also played Mario Kart on a large monitor. It’s unclear whether he did this on a computer or a gaming console. If it was a console, a special application similar to the one Noland has on his laptop would likely be needed.

Noland’s presentation at Neuralink headquarters

Noland’s presentation at Neuralink’s headquarters in Fremont was emotional and inspiring. Afterward, there was a big party at the company, but most employees were reportedly so motivated by Noland’s speech that they returned to work. In the video, we could see previously unpublished shots of the audience, where Neuralink employees were seated.

Detail of the N1 implant threads

In the shot below, we most likely see a piece of electrode threads. These are the threads from which a large part was pulled out of Noland’s brain. Their design will probably need to undergo some changes. Neuralink tested the same threads on experimental monkeys, which, although they are certainly very active, had no problem keeping the threads in their brains. It seems that the anatomy or dynamics of human and macaque brain movement differ more than it seemed.

Details of the N1 implant chip

The video also showed details of the computer chips. We don’t know much about them, so we can’t comment much. If you know exactly what is shown in the pictures, let us know in the comments below the article.

If we look closely at the photos, we see several interesting images – a Kraken, a teapot, a banana peel, a microphone, a wolf howling at the moon, or a magic hat. This is a certain tradition among chip developers, who like to place similar things on their masterpieces.

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