For the First Time Ever, Scientists Use Electricity to Help Blind People “See” Images
In a study released last week, scientists outlined the process of stimulating the brain using electrodes implanted on its surface.
By sending different patterns of electricity over the brain, subjects were able to perceive letters and shapes that weren’t actually there.
This is a huge step into what is called “visual prosthetics;” implants placed in the brain which could potentially restore vision in blind patients.
Above all, “to make visual prosthetic devices really useful for blind patients, they have to improve quality of life,” study authors neuroscientist Michael Beauchamp and neurosurgeon Dr. Daniel Yoshor, said.
“That means that, beyond optimizing the physical electrodes and how they operate, scientists will have to develop reliable software that helps filter and process visual information for the user. And once assembled, the complete system must be useful enough that people actually use it.”
In a recent interview, Elon Musk discussed his upcoming Neuralink product which will operate in a similar way.
Neuralink is a brain-machine interface that can be surgically implanted into the brain. It will have the ability to stimulate the brain using electricity.
Musk said there are a number of potential benefits to installing Neuralink in the brain, such as restoring eyesight, limb function, and hearing. He also talked about future capabilities down the line, such as combating neurological disorders and diseases.
This study and Mr. Musk’s interview both represent how scientists and doctors are moving towards direct manipulation of the brain to remedy a whole slew of ailments, including blindness, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and other neurological disorders.