A new technique that uses a camera mounted on a pair of glasses could help restore vision in some blind people.
The technology, developed at Monash University in Clayton, Victoria, sends images directly to the brain and could benefit those that still have a fully functioning optic nerve as well as some functioning nerve cells called ganglion, which are responsible for transmitting visual information from the retina to the optic nerve.
At a basic level, the system involves a digital camera embedded in a pair of glasses, a computer processor and finally a chip implanted in the patient's brain.
When the camera on the glasses picks up visual information from the outside world, it sends the information to a pocket-sized processing unit worn by the user. The processor modifies the images into a signal that can be transmitted wirelessly to the chip implanted in the brain.
The chip itself is a tiny grid composed of 11 tile-like components, each with 43 electrodes that touch on different parts of the brain related to vision, including the cerebrum, visual cortex and the occipital lobe.
When the digital signal from the processor is sent to the chip and out to the different parts of the brain, it stimulates these areas, and the person — even if blind — sees flashes of light.
The idea is that the grid of 11 tiles mimics a 500-pixel field-of-vision, and over time, the brain will learn to interpret each of the signals as an object.
At the moment, the images are crude representations of the real world. “The processor is like a cartoonist,” Arthur Lowery at Monash University told “New Scientist.” “It has to represent a complex situation with minimal information.”