Experimental brain implants in monkeys offer hope for restoring vision
Scientists have said they are one step closer to restoring the sight of blind people using brain implants.
[Adapted from an article by Amy Woodyatt, CNN]
Monkey business? After a series of successful experiments, scientists are a step closer to restoring the sight of blind people using brain implants.
Researchers at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience developed implants containing 1,024 electrodes — conductors that carry electrical currents into and out of the brain — and implanted them in the visual cortex, the part of the brain that processes visual information, in two macaque monkeys. By sending electrical signals to the monkeys’ brains, researchers created “phosphenes” — dots of light that could be “seen” or perceived by the brain, and then used to create the illusion of shapes and objects.
Lead researcher Pieter Roelfsema told CNN that the team wanted to show it was possible to induce “vision of objects” through direct electrical stimulation of the brain, explaining that the visual cortex has “a sort of visual map of space.””You can work with it like a matrix board along the highway. If you stimulate or light up multiple boards, you can see patterns,” he said.The monkeys performed a series of tasks, and, using their artificial vision, were able to recognize shapes and “percepts” including lines, moving dots and letters, according to findings recently published in the journal Science.
Wider implications for restoring sight
The team believes that such technology could one day be used to simulate sight in blind people who have been able to see at some point in their lives.