Brain implant restores partial vision to blind people

Medical experts hail ‘paradigm shift’ of implant that transmits video images directly to the brain, bypassing the eye and optic nerve and has been restored partial sight of six blind people.

Brain implant restores partial vision to blind people

Some vision was made possible with the participants’ eyes bypassed by a video camera attached to glasses which sent footage to electrodes implanted in the visual cortex of the brain.

University College London lecturer and Optegra Eye Hospital surgeon Alex Shortt said it was a significant development by specialists from Baylor Medical College in Texas and the University of California Los Angeles.

“Previously all attempts to create a bionic eye focused on implanting into the eye itself. It required you to have a working eye, a working optic nerve,” Shortt told.

“By bypassing the eye completely you open the potential up to many, many more people. This is a complete paradigm shift for treating people with complete blindness. It is a real message of hope.”

The US team behind the study asked participants, each of whom has been completely blind for years, to look at a blacked-out computer screen and identify a white square appearing randomly at different locations on the monitor. The majority of the time, they can find the square.

“This is an exciting time in neuroscience and neurotechnology, and I feel that within my lifetime we can restore brain implant functional sight to the blind,” Dr Yoshor said.