A group of scientists from the Baylor College of Medicine located in Houston has recently developed a certain brain implant that actually allows both blind and sighted participants to "see" the shape of different letters!
As detailed in a certain new paper that was published in the journal known as Cell, the device actually works by going past the eye and relaying visual information from the camera itself straight into the electrodes that are implanted in the brain.
This is a huge step forward towards a certain "visual prosthetic" that would then allow the blind to properly regain their vision. Although this is the goal, the necessary device to attain this is still "many years out" according to an article by Futurism.
Although the small step forward, the researchers were still able to create something remarkably significant helping participants to "see" the outlines of certain shapes. This is done by the complex sequences of certain electrical pulses sent to the participant's brains.
The use of electrical simulation
According to the senior author known as Daniel Yoshor coming from the Baylor College of Medicine located in Houston, when human they used certain electrical simulation in order to dynamically trace the letters directly on the patient's own brain, they were then able to "see" the certain intended letter shapes and could even identify different letters.
The senior author also noted that the participants actually described seeing certain glowing spots or straight lines forming letters just like skywriting. The new devices actually differ from the previously known visual aids that only treated each electrode just like an individual pixel.
According to the first author known as Michael Beauchamp who is a professor at the Baylor College of Medicine located in Houston, instead of trying to build the shapes from many different spots of light, they were actually able to trace outlines.
Beauchamp also added that their inspiration for this was the idea of tracing a certain letter in the palm of an individual's hand. The device aims to really improve the lives and have a major impact on those who are both blind and visually impaired.
According to Yoshor in his statement with Live Science, the main ability to be able to detect the form of a certain family member or even to allow additional independent navigation would also be a wonderful advance for the status of many blind patients.
The future of this device.
The development of this specific device is currently within its early stages since the brain is still extremely complex to understand. Beauchamp also said that the primary visual cortex, which is where the electrodes were then implanted, actually contains half a billion neurons. This study was only able to simulate a smaller fraction of the total neurons with just a handful of electrodes.
Beauchamp noted that an important next step would be to develop certain electrode arrays with the use of thousands of electrodes in order for the device to stimulate more precisely. They are also working on new improved algorithms to further the effectiveness of their device.