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Implants to restore vision

Scientists at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience (NIN), Amsterdam, have created a brain implant that could restore some vision in blind people.

The team developed high-resolution implants and then inserted these into the visual cortex – the part of the brain that processes visual information - of two sighted monkeys.

The results, published in Science, show that these implants make it possible to recognise artificially induced images.

This project was funded in part by the Human Brain Project (HBP), and in future, this technology could be used for the restoration of low vision in blind people who have suffered injury, or degeneration of the retina, eye, or optic nerve, but whose visual cortex remains intact.

“It is essential to demonstrate the functionality and safety of these implants in experimental animals before trying them out in humans.”
“Our experiments in monkeys were essential to demonstrate that the visual cortical prosthesis can support the perception of shapes such as letters.”

Pieter Roelfsema, Director of the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, and group leader at the Vision and Cognition Group.

Meanwhile, researchers from the Paris Vision Institute, France, have also used monkeys to develop a potential therapy to restore sight in patients who have a genetic disorder of the eyes that causes a loss of vision called retinitis pigmentosa.

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