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November 17, 2010

Artificial Retina More Capable of Restoring Normal Vision


A new retinal prosthetic creates an image (middle) that more accurately reconstructs a baby's face (left) than the standard approach (right).S. Nirenberg

Researchers have developed an artificial retina that has the capacity to reproduce normal vision in mice. While other prosthetic strategies mainly increase the number of electrodes in an eye to capture more information, this study concentrated on incorporating the eye's neural "code" that converts pictures into signals the brain can understand.

Science News has coverage.

To test its prosthetic system, the team decoded the output of the ganglion cells by measuring cellular activity when an image of a baby’s face was presented to the retinas of blind mice. Patterns measured from the mice with the new prosthetic reproduced a baby’s face in much finer detail than the standard method did. Instead of the standard method’s highly pixelized, blurry version of the face, the new prosthetic captured a smooth, clear view of the baby’s quizzical expression. “Not only can you tell it’s a baby’s face, you can tell it’s this baby’s face,” Nirenberg said.



Using mice as subjects, the authors built two prosthetic systems: one with the code, one without. The researchers found the device with the code reconstructed more details. "Incorporating the code jumped the system's performance up to normal levels -- that is, there was enough information to reconstruct faces, newsprint, landscapes, essentially anything," Nirenberg said.

Next, the authors plan to coordinate with other researchers who are already working with prosthetics on human participants.

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