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First Human Recipient of Neuralink Brain Implant Speaks Out About Safety Concerns

Noland Arbaugh, a 29-year-old man who has been paralyzed from the neck down for eight years following a diving accident, recently gained attention as the first person to receive Elon Musk's Neuralink brain chip implant. This milestone follows Musk's initiative to advance a technology aimed at merging human cognition with digital devices. Despite the revolutionary nature of this development, major safety concerns exist regarding the technology, especially in the context of previous animal testing. Neuralink's project, which has seen fair criticism and astonishment, has faced significant scrutiny over reports of monkey deaths or need for euthanasia during testing stages. These primates were part of experiments designed to evaluate Neuralink's brain chips' ability to allow technology control solely through thought. Reports of high mortality rates among these test subjects have stirred debate around advanced biomedical research's ethical considerations. 

"I had read so many negative things about it before surgery - about all the horrific things they had put the monkeys through and how awful it was, the monkeys like taking their implants out and rubbing them on the ground and all sorts of things," Arbaugh shared with The Sun, reflecting on his initial concerns before agreeing to the implant procedure. The accounts he referred to included distressing images of monkeys with drilled skulls and suffering alleged of the animal species during Neuralink's testing phases. One report described in detail a monkey losing fingers and toes, a condition said to be from self-mutilation, while another case involved a monkey vomiting, gurgling and gasping before being found with a brain hemorrhage.

Despite these reports, Neuralink has defended its testing operations, saying adverse outcomes were not directly related to the brain implants themselves. The company acknowledged euthanizing some animals but argued lost limbs were due to inter-monkey aggression rather than technological or testing conditions influence. Elon Musk, in response to the controversy, stated on social media "No monkeys have died from Neuralink implants. First, with our early prototypes to minimize risk to healthy monkeys, we chose ‘near end of life’ monkeys (sic) (who were near death anyway)." Arbaugh's decision to undergo the implant was based on extensive discussions with Neuralink, which ultimately alleviated his concerns around safety and ethical meaningfulness of the technology. His positive results, demonstrated through abilities like playing chess and video games solely through thought, represent a major step toward Neuralink's goal of restoring autonomy for severely physically limited individuals.

The path to innovation is not without its critics, with public opinion divided on moving to human testing. Ethical concerns around preliminary animal testing, potential risks involved in human implementation, and technology's wider implications continue to spur debate.

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