A visual ‘prosthetic’ for the blind

Published May 14, 2020

Neurosurgeons at the Baylor College of Medicine have cre­at­ed an implant for the brain that — in this ini­tial exper­i­ment — allowed blind peo­ple to “see” let­ters. Placed on the brain’s visu­al cor­tex, a mild elec­tri­cal stim­u­la­tion tricks the brain into think­ing it’s see­ing something.

The study authors craft­ed the let­ters by stim­u­lat­ing the brain with elec­tri­cal cur­rents, caus­ing it to gen­er­ate so-called phosphenes — tiny pin­pricks of light that peo­ple some­times per­ceive with­out any actu­al light enter­ing their eyes.

This is only the first step on a long road — one that would even­tu­al­ly need more elec­trodes (and more pre­cise ones), and soft­ware and sen­sors that could trans­mit images of the envi­ron­ment to the brain. But the con­cept it proves is an amaz­ing one.

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