Berna Gómez is a former teacher who has been blind for 16 years. She recently regained enough vision to see letters and objects thanks to the successful implantation of a microelectrode array into her visual cortex.
Implanting electrodes into the visual cortex has long been a dream of scientists who believe that rudimentary sight can be restored for scores of patients by simply sending information directly to the brain’s visual cortex. The research, conducted by American and Spanish scientists, demonstrates that this can be done effectively and safely. Gómez has had the implant for six months and with the help of a video game training system, has learned to interpret the visual signals from the electrodes.
The implant is paired with a pair of glasses with a video camera. Following this initial successful trial, a clinical trial will run through May of 2024. The researchers hope that these electrodes could offer functional mobility to some of the 148 million individuals in the world who are blind due to a severed link between the eyes and the brain. This blindness is common from conditions such as glaucoma and optic nerve atrophy. An electrode system would successfully allow these individuals to see doorways, car doors, large letters, and other key infrastructure objects to more easily move through the world independently.
Source study: The Journal of Clinical Investigation – Visual percepts evoked with an Intracortical 96-channel microelectrode array inserted in human occipital cortex