Technology that helps the blind see


A study by an international team of scientists helped a 58-year-old woman gain “artificial” vision 16 years after she had completely lost her sight.

The technique that involves implanting tiny electrodes into the brain has, so far, allowed simple shapes to be recognized.

Former teacher Berna Gomez participated in the experiment. Implanting an array of electrodes in the brain’s visual cortex stimulates surrounding neurons, providing artificial vision for the volunteer. Special glasses with a built-in camera were also used.

Scientists from Spain, the Netherlands and the USA published the results of their work in The Journal of Clinical Investigation. The electrodes stimulate the brain, so the woman can see the white dots.

According to Professor Eduardo Fernandez, the results were very impressive, demonstrating both the safety and efficacy of the technology and allowing the “archaeological form of vision” to be restored. At the same time, the professor noted that the scientific community still has to answer a number of questions and solve a number of problems. For example, it is known that women fail to recognize many letters, only the I, L, C, V, and O are clearly identified.

The group plans to run more experiments, next time using more complex systems capable of “translating” more complex images into the brain. It is believed that this will help in social communication with people who have lost their sight. If the experiments are successful, the technology will allow blind people to recognize interlocutors, identify doorways, cars and other objects, and make them more independent.

Clinical trials are expected to continue until May 2024. The research is funded by several institutions, universities and departments, including the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation.

A method bypassing the use of the eyes in imaging could in the future help restore vision to 148 million people – many people on the planet have now “lost” contact between the eyes and the brain due to diseases such as glaucoma or atrophy of the optic nerves.


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