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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