New implant can restore a kind of sight to blind people: Dutch neuroscience institute
The Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience believes that newly developed brain implants may make it possible for blind people to regain a kind of vision. The implants make it possible to recognize images and objects, without involving the eyes at all. The first results are promising, according to the Institute, NOS reports.
The implants are used in the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that processes visual information, among other things. This idea dates back to the 1970's, but the implants developed by the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience use many more electrodes than was previously possible.
The research team placed the implants with 1,024 electrodes in the cerebral cortex of two non-blind monkeys. The monkeys were first given a simple task of recognizing a bright spot generated with an electrode, and later they had to distinguish more complex shapes and letters created by multiple electrodes. The monkeys were also able to recognize lines and moving dots created by the electrodes.
"Our implant is directly connected to the brain, bypassing the stages of visual processing by the eye or optic nerve," researcher Xing Chen said to the broadcaster. 'In the future, such technology could be used to restore the vision of people who have become blind due to injury or deterioration of the retina, eye or optic nerve, but whose visual cortex is still in tact."
According to the researchers, their study lays the foundation for developing a brain prosthesis that could enable blind people to see functionally again, recognize objects, and navigate unfamiliar environments.