A study by Miguel Hernández University (Spain) published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation found an alternative way to restore sight to blind patients: through glasses that directly stimulate the cortex. In practice, the invention uses an “artificial retina” and detects light in front of its user.
The researchers tested the system on a 57-year-old woman who had been completely blind for over 16 years. During the experiment, the patient was finally able to identify shapes and silhouettes detected by the artificial retina. According to the authors of the study, the patient was also able to discern some letters and even recognize the sizes of objects.
The implant is only 4mm wide and each of the tiny electrodes is 1.5mm long. They penetrate the brain so they can stimulate and monitor the electrical activity of neurons in the visual cortex. This implant did not otherwise affect the function of the cerebral cortex, nor did it stimulate other neurons.
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However, according to claims by the experts involved themselves, there is a lot of work ahead before the technology can be used on a practical level, so scientists are now recruiting volunteers with different levels of visual impairment for new experiments. The study can be accessed here.