A visual prosthesis comprising a camera and a brain implant recently made it possible for a blind teacher who's had no vision for 16 years to see again.

An NPR report said the test subject underwent an implant for six months and didn't experience disruptions to her brain activity, as well as other health issues, the study's abstract specified.

The research furthers what's called the "long-held dream of researchers" to inform a rudimentary form of sight to blind individuals by delivering information directly to the brain's visual cortex.

According to Eduardo Fernandez, one of the lead researchers from Miguel Hernandez University, they have taken a considerable step forward, showing the possibility of these devices to restore functional vision for those who have lost their vision.

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Science Times – Brain Implant: Scientists Show How This New Approach Helps a Blind Teacher Get Back Her Vision
(Photo: Eye and Vision on Wikimedia commons)
A visual prosthesis comprising a camera and a brain implant recently made it possible for a blind teacher who's had no vision for 16 years to see again.


Blind for 16 Years

As indicated in the study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, a neurosurgeon implanted a microelectrode array into the visual cortex of Berna Gomez, a former teacher who, as mentioned, has been blind for more than 16 years.

The implant was then partnered with a video camera installed in the center of a pair of eyeglasses. Following a training period, Gomez could decode visual information fed from the camera directly to her brain.

In addition, the training included a video game that helped the former teacher learn how to decipher signals that come from the electrodes.

Microelectrode Array Implanted

In the game, a screen quickly exhibits an image of Maggie Simpson holding a gun in either of her hands. The player needs to correctly choose which hand holds the weapon; Gomez learned how to overcome that task with input from the array.

At the time of the research, Gomez was 57. Because of her participation, which includes her capability of giving clinically accurate feedback to researchers, Gomez was identified as the study's co-author.

Some of the effects of the prosthesis were limited. It did not let the patient identify all of the alphabets, for example. However, she discriminated against some letters like I, C, V, and O, among others.

The microelectrode array was implanted by means of a "mini craniotomy," in a process that the scientists say is straightforward and follows the standard neurosurgical processes. It involves making a hole in the skull that measures 1.5-centimeter, a bit larger than half an inch.

Research Goals

According to John Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah researcher Richard Normann, one objective of this research is to provide a blind person with more mobility.

It could enable them to identify cars, doorways, or people. It has the potential to increase independence and safety, and that's what the researchers are working towards.

A clinical trial associated with the study is scheduled to continue until May 2024. The study is financially backed by several entities, including the Ministry of Science and Innovation and Spain Miguel Hernandez University, and the Moran Eye Center.

Lastly, the approach of bypassing the eyes altogether could soon restore vision to approximately 148 million people worldwide.

That is how many people have had the association between their eyes, not to mention their brain severed, the study authors said, because of conditions like glaucoma or optic nerve atrophy.

Report about the blind teacher who got her eye vision back is shown on Brake News's YouTube video below:

 

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