Spanish scientists have successfully implanted a blind person with a stimulation of her brain's visual cortex.
According to New Atlas, the system is based on an artificial retina that attaches to a pair glasses and detects light. The light is processed into electrical signals, which are sent to a series micro-electrodes in the brain of the user. This allows the user to see the light picked up by their glasses.
Researchers tested the system on a blind woman aged 57 years. The artificial retina enabled her to recognize silhouettes and shapes, a sign of progress towards seamless bionic eyes like those seen in sci-fi movies like Star Trek.
The stimulation parameters were stable over time and we consistently obtained high-quality recordings of visually impaired neurons, according to a paper published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation. The researchers also noted that the patient was capable of identifying letters and recognizing object boundaries.
Although some may be uncomfortable with the idea of implanting electrodes into their brains, the researchers found that the artificial retina system did not affect the area around the visual cortex or simulate non-target neurons. This suggests that the system is safe and discreet. The system required relatively low electrical activity compared to other neural implants arrays.
After six months of continuous use, the system was finally removed from the woman's brain.
This technology will need to be tested on a larger scale before it can be used. Early indicators look promising. Some types of blindness could soon be eliminated with the help of gene-editing technology and neural implants.
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