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Medicine Science

Bionic Eye Patient Tests Planned For 2013 59

angry tapir writes "Australian researchers are getting ready to test a bionic eye on patients in 2013. The eye consists of 98 electrodes that stimulate nerve cells in the retina, which is a tissue lining the back of the eye that converts light into electrical impulses necessary for sight, and allow users to better differentiate between light and dark. With the bionic eye, images taken by a camera are processed in an external unit, such as a smartphone, then relayed to the implant's chip. This stimulates the retina by sending electric signals along the optic nerve into the brain where they are decoded as vision."
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Bionic Eye Patient Tests Planned For 2013

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  • by DrYak ( 748999 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @08:46AM (#39819355) Homepage

    One of the challenges I see is that the optical nerve, isn't really a peripheral nerve (connecting peripheral sensors to the central nervous system), but something connecting 2 parts of the central nervous system. Beside other peculiarities stemming from this, it has a result which makes the bionic eye much more complicated than other organ replacements:
    The signal is already processed. Light get detected in the deeper layer of the retina (where the cones and rods lives), transmitted to the upper layer (nerves cells doing this transmission plays the same role as peripheral nerves) and gets processed in the upper layer.
    The optical nerve doesn't carry simply levels detected from the cones and rods, instead it carry some shape information (boundary detection done by comparing signals from neighbouring groups of cones and rods) and colour contrast information (done by comparing the signal of a small group of cones with surrounding cones). (The same kind of pre-processing going into the spine or the crianial nerve's nuclei).

    A bionic eye will need to similarly pre-process the image, and then manage to send the correct output to the correct type of fiber.
    On the other hand, the various later stages of the visual pathway in the brain do further processing on the signal (line detection, shape detection, motion detection, etc...), so the brain might manage to make something useful out of the signal even if it isn't optimal at that stage.

    I wonder how functional and useful the resulting perceived image would be for the patient. Well, probably better than nothing, but still...

  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:32AM (#39819939) Homepage Journal

    You are correct; many baseball players with 20/20 get LAISIK to improve their vision to better than 20/20.

    But this device isn't going to give anyone super vision. "The eye consists of 98 electrodes". That's some damned low resolution. This is for those with no vision at all, someone who has had their eye poked out completely. It will give a very tiny amount of vision to someone who was formerly completely blind. You wouldn't want to replace a working eyeball with this thing.

    In twenty years? Who knows?

  • by h5inz ( 1284916 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:49AM (#39820187)
    There is a 1500 electrode bionic eye already in use, or I am missinterpreting something. []
  • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Informative)

    by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @10:11AM (#39820505) Homepage
    Replacing "by" with a comma in the last sentence clarifies things:

    This stimulates the retina, sending electric signals along the optic nerve into the brain where they are decoded as vision.

"If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?" -- Garrison Keillor