Experts from the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience might be on the verge of restoring vision in blind people with the help of brain implants. They have done a series of successful experiments with monkeys using brain implants. They have created these implants with 1024 electrodes. Electrodes are conductors, which contain electric currents into and out of the brain. Experts have implanted these electrodes in the visual cortex of two macaque monkeys. The visual cortex is the region of the brain, which is responsible for processing visual information. They have been able to develop phosphenes by sending electric signals to the brains of monkeys. Phosphenes are little dots of light, which are perceived by the brain and are used to create an illusion of shapes and objects. The lead author of the study, Dr. Pieter Roelfsema has said that the findings of the study prove that it is possible to induce visions of objects by direct electric stimulation in the brain. The study shows that visual cortex contains a sort of visual map of the space.
The author has said that the visual cortex can be used as a matrix board, by lighting up or stimulating multiple boards, patterns can be seen. During the study, monkeys have been able to perform a number of tasks. Animals have been able to identify shapes and percepts such as lines, dots, and moving letters with the help of their artificial vision. The findings of the study have been released in a journal called Science. The team of experts hopes that the technology can be used to restore vision in blind humans as well, who have been able to see at some point in time in their lives. Dr. Roelfsema has said that when people’s eyes stop working they lose their vision and their visual cortex has a scarcity of inputs. In such a condition, they bypass the malfunctioning eyes and directly plug the images, which people see in normal life into the visual cortex. He has said that stimulation with electrodes, creates one dot of light, and stimulating with a pattern of electrodes will develop a pattern of dots. These patterns of dots can form meaningful images. That is how these dots can be used to form letters of the alphabet.
Experts have said that in the future a person will be able to carry a camera on their glasses, which will be able to decode the images into electric stimulation patterns for the brain and drive them to the electrodes. Later electrodes will trigger suitable cells and the person will be able to see nearby moving objects. This will give a push to a form of vision. The lead author of the study hopes that the new technology will be ready for human trials by 2023. Scientists from around the world have been observing the cortex as a way of restoring vision. Another team of experts from Spain’s Miguel Hernandez University has claimed that they have been able to restore rudimentary vision temporarily in blind people using brain implants.