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Trials for 'bionic' eye implants

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posted on Feb, 16 2007 @ 07:33 PM
This is great news.

(BBC)-A retinal implant that may help restore the sight of millions of blind people could be available in two years.

US researchers have been given the go-ahead to implant the prototype device in 50 to 75 patients.

The Argus II system uses a spectacle-mounted camera to feed visual information to electrodes in the eye.

"What we are trying to do is take real-time images from a camera and convert them into tiny electrical pulses that would jump-start the otherwise blind eye and allow patients to see," said Professor Mark Humayun, from the University of Southern California.

Retinal implants are able to partially restore the vision of people with particular forms of blindness caused by diseases such as macular degeneration or retinitis pigmentosa.

A camera is used to capture pictures, and a processing unit, about the size of a small handheld computer and worn on a belt, converts the visual information into electrical signals.

These are then sent back to the glasses and wirelessly on to a receiver just under the surface of the front of the eye, which in turn feeds them to the electrodes at the rear.

The technology has now been given the go-ahead by the US Food and Drug Administration to be used in an exploratory patient trial.

If successful, the device could be commercialised soon after, costing around $30,000 (£15,000). Other devices could then be developed with higher resolution or a wider field of view, said Professor Humayun.

posted on Feb, 19 2007 @ 03:54 PM
This is definitely great news for the blind, but I am wondering what kind of impact this would have on someone like Stevie Wonder? This guy has been playing the piano for just about his entire life as a blind man. So what would happen if he could all of a sudden see everything? Would his skills and abilities be diminished? Does anyone think that some sort of technology like this, while beneficial for society as a whole, would be detrimental for people like Stevie?

I would love to hear anyones take on this.

posted on Feb, 19 2007 @ 05:20 PM
Somewhere in the giant pile of reference material we have here, there is a book with something about this in there. There was a man who was blind since early childhood (2-3 y.o.?) who had his sight restored as an adult. It didn't work out real well, since all his perception was tuned towards touch and hearing.

He was able to see but not actually interpret what he saw until he touched it, IIRC. I think eventually he stressed out to the point he committed suicide, although it's been a long time since I read the book.

Blind from birth would be worse, because there's a developmental gate early on, if you don't see a lot of different types of input your brain will trim out the processing centers for visual detection of certain features. There is a classic cat experiment wherein they fit little kitties with vertical or horizontal filters, as adult cats the horizontal cats couldn't see chair legs and the vertical cats couldn't see table tops.

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