Scientists Set Sights on an Implantable Prosthetic for the Blind

March 19, 2008 | Source: Scientific American

A Massachusetts General Hospital neuroscientist is designing a prosthetic to bypass eyes and optic nerves and send image information directly to the regions of the brain that process them.

John Pezaris' visual prosthetic design

John Pezaris' visual prosthetic design

The prosthesis proposed by John Pezaris would be worn like a pair of glasses, with digital cameras over a person’s eyes connecting to an array of electrodes implanted in the brain.

In research published in 2007 he and other researchers were able to show that microstimulation in certain areas of the brain creates a percept that the brain interprets as optical input, or something that can be “seen.”

Pezaris hopes to have a functioning device ready for human testing in a few years.

Another prosthetic project, the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System, headed by Professor Mark Humayun at the University of Southern California, is already in human trials. An implant consisting of 60 electrodes is attached to the retina that conduct information from an external camera to the retina to provide a rudimentary form of sight.