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Biotech Medicine Technology

MIT Microchip Could Someday Restore Vision 43

CWmike writes "Researchers at MIT have developed a microchip that could, one day, enable blind people to regain some level of vision. By combining wireless technology, eyeglasses equipped with a camera, and the chip, they should be able to restore at least some vision to people who suffer from retinitis pigmentosa or age-related macular degeneration, two of the leading causes of blindness, the scientists say. The chip, which is designed to be attached to the eyeball, would pick up images sent from the camera and electrically stimulate the nerve cells that normally carry visual input from the retina to the brain. The chip is sealed in a titanium case to keep water from leaking in and damaging its circuitry. At this point, the technology is not expected to restore normal vision, but MIT said it should provide the ability to navigate around a room or walk down a sidewalk. 'Anything that could help them see a little better and let them identify objects and move around a room would be an enormous help,' said Shawn Kelly, a researcher in MIT's Research Laboratory for Electronics. 'If they can recognize faces of people in a room, that brings them into the social environment as opposed to sitting there waiting for someone to talk to them.'"
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MIT Microchip Could Someday Restore Vision

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  • Neat, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Raindance ( 680694 ) * <johnsonmx&gmail,com> on Friday September 25, 2009 @10:21PM (#29546017) Homepage Journal

    Here are some questions I have about the chip:

    - These chips/systems already exist. What's new about this MIT effort? The Computerworld article was very sparse.

    - There's a great deal of bidirectional communication that goes on in normal eyes-- information not only flowing from eye to brain, but from brain to eye as well. As far as I know these tech just discards these signals. Is this important?

    - Last I heard, this sort of technology was approaching 1000 effective pixels of visual information (assuming ideal electrode placement). Has this effort from MIT pushed this boundary? How does '1000 effective pixels' compare to the eye's effective resolution? Can we put normal vision in terms of pixel resolution?

    - I've read about shunting tactile senses (for instance, the nerves on a person's tongue) over to a digital videocamera. I believe the military has done a fair bit of research into this. Could this sort of approach be viable for helping the blind function as well? Could it become the preferred approach since it seems less invasive than ocular- and neuro-surgery?

  • Re:Neat, but... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Shawjord ( 1644077 ) on Friday September 25, 2009 @11:59PM (#29546365)
    I'm also not an expert in the field but I have heard of a procedure in which a tooth is removed and implanted into the eye, It was completed in Great Britain and the patient got to see his wife for the very first time. []

"The pathology is to want control, not that you ever get it, because of course you never do." -- Gregory Bateson