Can a bionic eye restore vision to clinically blind people?

With the help of a miniature electronic implants that work via wireless technology, a bionic eye promises to be revolutionary, capable of restoring the vision to clinically blind people.

Researchers at Monash University in Australia have advanced this tool that will help the recovery of vision in people declared as clinically blind.

They explained in a statement that the bionic eye works with miniature wireless electronic implants, which are placed on the surface of the brain and this restores the visual functions.

Most touched with blindness have severely damaged optic nerves, a condition that prevents the transmission of visual signals from the retina to the so-called “center of vision” in the human brain. This center is the occipital lobe, one of the six main lobes of each cerebral hemisphere. There is the primary visual cortex, where the processing area of ​​our visual system works.

The bionic vision system developed by Australian researchers eliminates the dysfunction of the optic nerve. Thanks to this, many conditions that currently have serious therapeutic limitations and very complex prognoses can now be treated.

The technology comprises a custom-designed harness, (a set of “mosaics” or plates with dimensions of 9 by 9 millimeters) including a camera and a wireless transmitter in addition of an electronic vision processing unit, which works with the collaboration of specific software.

How does the system work? Bionic eyes

First and foremost, the camera captures the images and scenes and transfer them to the vision processor. The processor is a device similar in size to a conventional smartphone. Once there, the visual information will be processed and the most relevant for the user will be extracted.

Subsequently, the visual data already processed will be transmitted through a wireless communication network to the circuits installed in each of the plates implanted in the brain immediately the data will be transformed into electrical pulses, which will generate the brain stimuli. This is what will promote vision, thanks to the help of microelectrodes the thickness of a human hair.

According to Professor Arthur Lowery, principal investigator at Monash University, the new technology “creates a visual pattern from combinations of up to 172 points of light (phosphenes). Said pattern provides information for the individual to move around indoors and outdoors, or even to recognize the presence of people and objects around them”.

Promising results were observed during experiments carried out with sheep. over a period of nine months these animals received visual stimulation through seven specially implanted devices. The results of the study indicate that long-term stimulation with this system is not only effective, but also does not generate any type of physical damage, behavioural problems or seizures.

The work represents one of the first long-term trials of an effectively functioning cortical vision prosthesis. Indeed, this breakthrough will bring hope to people with highly complex visual problems or clinically blind.

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