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Scientists help blind woman to see using brain implant

The patient, who became blind 16 years ago, was able to make out lines, shapes and simple letters using artificial vision developed by researchers

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Pixabay/Gerd Altmann

Researchers have utilised artificial vision to help a blind woman to see using a brain implant.

Writing in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, scientists described how an intracortical microelectrode array was implanted in the visual cortex of a 58-year-old woman who had been blind for the past 16 years.

The patient then wore eyeglasses with a miniature video camera. Specialised software encoded the visual data collected by the camera and sent it to electrodes within the implant.

The technology enabled the woman to identify lines, shapes and simple letters.

A video game incorporating a character from The Simpsons was developed by the researchers to help the patient practise using the prosthesis.

Professor Eduardo Fernández, from the University Miguel Hernández, highlighted that the results are exciting because they suggest that information can be transferred from the outside world directly to the visual cortex of blind individuals ¬– restoring a rudimentary form of sight.

“Although these preliminary results are very encouraging, we should be aware that there are still a number of important unanswered questions and that many problems have to be solved before a cortical visual prosthesis can be considered a viable clinical therapy,” he said.