A Small Brain Implant Made A Blind Teacher See Again

Researchers from America and Spain together worked on a project in which a blind science teacher made to see letters, distant objects and played a Maggie Simpson video game by the use of visual prosthesis. This method includes a camera and brain implant.

The study published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation says that the test subject had the implant for six months and brought no stoppage to the brain activity and neither created any health-related problems. A rudimentary type of sight has been given to blind people by transferring information directly to the brain’s visual cortex.

Leadership researchers, Eduardo Fernández of Miguel Hernández University said, “Results are very exciting as they showed safety and efficacy. We have taken a major step in showing the power of such devices to bring back functional vision for people.”

Here, a neurosurgeon implanted a microelectrode array into the visual cortex of former science teacher Berna Gómez, who lost her vision 16 years ago. The brain implant is then connected with a video camera placed on the center of two glasses.

Former science teacher Berna Gómez
Former science teacher Berna Gómez, Credit: Moran Eye Center, the University of Utah

She was trained for some time and then became able to understand the information that was sent into her brain directly through the camera. In training, a video game was used that helped her to learn how to read and. understand signals coming from electrodes. The game instantly shows the image of Maggie Simpson holding a gun on-screen in one of her hands on screen.

The player has to tell in which hand the gun is using input from the array. In this way, she excelled in tasks. Gómez was also named as co-author of the study for her contribution. According to the study, she was not able to identify all letters. Thus letters such as ‘I,’ ‘L,’ ‘C,’ ‘V’ and ‘O’ are not distinguished properly.

The microelectrode array was implanted through a “mini-craniotomy,” which follows neurosurgical methods, it also includes making a 1.5 cm hole in the skull. The array is only 4mm square but it holds 96 electrodes.

Earlier researchers found that around 700 electrodes can give a blind person sufficient visual information to enhance their mobility. As the implant needs small electrical currents to stimulate the visual cortex, researchers hoped to add microarrays in upcoming experiments.

Clinical trials of this study will continue till May 2024. This research is funded by several organisations like Spain’s Ministry of Science and Innovation and Miguel Hernández University, Moran Eye Center. Blindness is a common disability in the world. Scientists are continuously working to help people.

In other news, we saw how a breakthrough Brain implant turned thoughts into text as fast as typing on a smartphone.

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