Scientist developed a new approach that allows blind people to see letters and shapes by implantation of a new device based on intracortical microelectrodes in the brain
There are already methods such as eye implants that can allow blind people to see. However, now the team of scientists from Miguel Hernández University (MHU) developed a different approach that demonstrates implantation of this new micro device in the human brain stimulates the cerebral cortex producing visual perceptions with higher resolution. This experimental setting includes an artificial retina installed on a simple pair of glasses that detects light from the visual field in front of the glasses and turns it into electrical signals that are passed to a 3-dimentional matrix of the brain implant.
The team used 4mm wide implants with 96 micro-electrodes of 1.5mm long. These electrodes penetrate the brain to stimulate and monitor the electrical activity of neurons in the visual cortex, which is situated in the larger cerebral cortex. Due to this stimulation, the user perceived the light patterns transmitted by the artificial retina. The scientists had successfully tested a 1,000-electrode version of this setup on animals. The team of scientists from MHU tested the present version of the setup on a 57 years old woman with complete blindness. After training her to understand images generated by the device, the woman identified letters and silhouettes of certain objects.
The important finding of this study was that the implant did not affect the functioning of cerebral cortex or it did not stimulate any other non-target neurons. Moreover, the implant needs very low amount of electrical current than same electrode arrays placed on the brain’s surface, which makes it safe to use. According to the team, there is still more work needed to bring the technology in practical use. The scientists are planning to test the technology further on volunteering blind people.