Motivated by the success of cochlear implants for deaf patients, our group is developing a cortical visual neuroprosthesis designed to interface with the occipital cortex in order to restore a limited but useful sense of vision to profoundly blind patients. We will review the most important challenges regarding this neuroprosthetic approach and emphasize the need for basic human psychophysical research on the best way of presenting complex stimulating patterns through multiple microelectrodes.
We will present our recent results regarding the implantation and explantation of intracortical microelectrodes in blind volunteers (ClinicalTrials.gov identifier NCT02983370). Our results, although preliminary, demonstrate the safety and efficacy of chronic intracortical microstimulation via a large number of electrodes in humans, showing its high potential for restoring a functional vision in the blind. These findings support earlier findings in monkey experiments and suggest that several arrays of penetrating electrodes might form the basis for a cortically based solution for sight restoration in individuals with profound blindness.
We hope that advances in medical technologies, neuroscience, electronics, material science, and information and communication technologies, combined with the increase of intelligence in these visual neuroprosthetic devices, will encourage the development of new and improved custom-tailored neuroelectronic systems for restoring functional sight in many blind people.
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