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Stevie Wonder to Implant Eye Chip? 198

chocko sent us an article about Stevie Wonder's Eye Chip. Now normally a Stevie Wonder story probably wouldn't make it on Slashdot, but this is actually about him implanting a chip into his eye in order to try to gain some of his sight back. I just thought that was kinda cool. Update: 12/04 12:02 by H :Thanks to Chris Griffin for updating the story.
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Stevie Wonder to Implant Eye Chip?

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  • There is a move out on video with Val Kilmer sp?. The story is about a guy who could see as a child but lost his sight due to an illness. He under went surgery and regained his sight, but it was very tough on him. It was not as simple as returning his sight, his brain had to learn how to interperate the signals. In the credits after the movie it stated the movie was based on a true story and the guy is currently living in the Atlanta area. If any one knows the title please post it so others can watch it. It could parallel what Stevie might go through.
  • Actually, there was a discussion about this on Slashdot a while back... if I recall correctly, someone said that the human eye's resolution is actually relatively low (and it can't really be measured in pixels), but it's constantly darting back and forth so you see a large image, but only a small area of it is in focus. I believe the discussion was in an Ask Slashdot, but my (admittedly cursory) searches didn't bring up anything. Maybe I just imagined it...
  • My only question is that now that they are going to start using technology more in medical proceedures, are the costs going to drop rapidly like computer/tech hardware? Or will it remain relitively consistant as it has?
  • The vast majority of people who consider themselves blind have SOME sort of vision. Usually its just the ability to see blobs of color, sometimes its more or less. I don't recall too well what caused his blindness, but if it was because he was a preemie, then it is probably was eye damage (because his brain was most likely fully developed in the senses) which blinded him. It wouldn't surprise me that he could see some things, like a lightbulb or the sun.
  • Yeah, about 5 years. CCD's are improving rapidly, because research is now funded by the popularity of digital cameras in the domestic market.

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • If Stevie gets his sight back, he's going to kill whoever has been dressing him all these years :)
  • There's an interesting sci-fi scenario that might be relevant here. Basically, in the future, medical health technology comes to dominate society. The rich try to live forever, the poor can't, and everyone is taxed on how healthy they can stay without spending medical money. You thought the gap between rich and poor was bad before... think about what this means. Social Darwinism back in force. Is this what we want when we think of a working human society?

    Well there are some other choices

    • Stop medical science, make sure nobody can live forever.
    • Force people who have worked hard (or been lucky) to give wealth to those who havn't (worked hard and/or been lucky)

    Do you have better ideas? Do they still seem better if we replace "medical technology" with "car technology", or "lawn care"?

  • I dont think that a ccd camera with each pixel connected to a nerve in the optic cord would work because your retina actualy has done a bunch of computation before the image is passed on. Your eye actualy finds edges at different orientations and light areas surrounded by dark areas. It does more than that, but I dont have any examples to give. If you could do those computations and then feed the resulting signal to the brain you would have a much better chance of it learning to see again.

    I'm not sure that's right. Feature detection (eg detection of edges, junctions etc) is done in the primary visual cortex. The cortex is composed of groups of about 100 "pyramidal" neurons wired together into narrow bundles, sometimes called minicolumns. Approximately 100 of these minicolumns are grouped together into a "macrocolumn" (in the visual cortex sometimes the term "ocular dominance column" is used).

    Each macrocolumn is wired up to a specific spot on the retina, so that it might be regarded as processing a single pixel. In this way the entire visual field is mapped onto the surface of the back of the brain with relatively little distortion (feed radioactive glucose to a monkey, get him to look at a black-and-white geometric pattern while exposing the back of his head to photographic film, and you'll see the pattern he is looking at etched directly onto the surface of his brain!).

    Now, within a given macrocolumn, each minicolumn is responsible for detection of a specific low-level feature at the co-ordinate "owned" by the macrocolumn to which it belongs. The features detected at this level are "edges" (sharp contrast gradients) in a complete range of different orientations, with a resolution of a couple of degrees.

    Recognition of features such as vertical lines is accomplished by having the "vertical edge" minicolumns in adjacent macrocolumns connected to each other, and to specific multipolar neurons deeper in the cortex, which sum their inputs. So if the vertical edge detectors are stimulated in half a dozen macrocolumns all arranged (in terms of neural topology) in a straight line, these will all stimulate the higher-order neurons which code for a vertical line at those coordinates.

    The processing that occurs in the retina owing to interconnection of rods and cones only involves smearing out the stimulus to near neighbours. I think this is part of the scanning mechanism involves in the eye's oscillation of approx. 10hz (I'm not referring to saccadic movement).

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • This is one of my favorite trends that has happened recently: Trek technology manifesting itself in the consumer market. On Trek, one of the things that I really thought was cool (isn't everything? ;-) ) was the PADD. A flat, small, portable device with a touch screen that allows wireless access to information. Sound familiar?

    Palm devices (specificly the Palm VII or a standard Palm coupled with some form of networking) are getting very close to this. There are also now devices that are similar in concept, just not size. Wireless color touchscreen LCDs that interface with their base (I think there was one that was an x server), allowing many fun things like browsing slashdot from the comfort of your bathroom :-) (or even better, reading slashdot at the breakfast table instead of the stadard flat, dead trees)

    The thing that makes science fiction like Star Trek what it is, is the speculation and extrapolation about our future and the future of technology. We shouldn't be too surprised when someone gets it right, but it sure is cool to see a technology progress out of fiction into reality.

  • ...this post has been up how long? And we've yet to see a reference to Geordi LaForge?
  • I trust my eye chip to Linux, as well as my ass chip [].
  • by Ford Prefect ( 8777 ) on Friday December 03, 1999 @06:38PM (#1481572) Homepage
    Thanks to BBC News Online, here [].

    Apparently the system only has 25 pixels - presumably in a 5x5 square. While such 'vision' will be a vast improvement over nothing, it sounds like the system is still in its early stages and is nowhere near mimicing conventional sight. It's a bit like the early cochlear implants in a way.

  • by Duke of URL ( 10219 ) on Friday December 03, 1999 @06:39PM (#1481574)
    There was a guy who had corneal replacement when he was middle aged. He could see when he was very young, but lost his sight later. So they did the corneal transplant and he could see, but it wasen't all perfect. His depth perception was ALL messed up. At the hospital on the 5th floor or higher he looked out the window and was asked what the distance was. He said "not far" remarking that he thought he could touch the ground with his hand. Soo the brain had to readjust. Eventually this guy (mabye not same guy movie is based off of) got really depressed. He sat in his house and was disgusted with how disorderly and dirty everything was. He had envisioned it all being perfect while being blind. He eventually committed suicide.

    I really hope Stevie Wonder's procedure works well and that he regains some sight. Good luck and God bless dude.
  • Stevie Wonder has a condition called Retinitis_pigmentosa. More info on the condition can be found here [].

    Its a condition that affects the retina, the back of the eye where the optical nerves lie.

    Here's [] some more info and a picture of an affected retina.
  • What in the bloody blue buggering blazes does CmdrTaco mean by this comment? Did I miss something that relegates to pariah status one of the strongest singers the 20th century has produced, and one who has overcome so many obvious travails?

    Now normally I wouldn't expect any story about musicians to be regular fare for /., but every now and then we get some silly story about some yahoo DJ Shadow or some moonie from the Who or some other band, and there is no such inane put-down.

    De gustibus non est disputandem and all that, but remember that it's hard to narrow down any aspect of the /. crowd, least of all musical tastes.



  • I don't think Rob was necessarily dissing Stevie,
    just suggesting that there is little overlap between
    Slashdot readers and Stevie Wonder fans. But he may
    be wrong about this as well: I had a CS professor
    who is probably in his early 50s now, who was this
    total Jazz Geek. And, although I didn't get into
    specifics, I imagine his tastes were closer to
    Weather Report than to, say Pharoah Sanders. Stevie
    Wonder's early 70s work is very fusion/modal influenced,
    so there are possibly a fair number of /.er-Stevie fans, though they're probably a little long in the tooth. Sorry about the hard returns, Lynx doesn't word wrap the text entry field.
  • If you don't believe me, check out the mySQL book from O'Reilly. The example database is a record collection, and it's all Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, etc.
  • This just wouldn't be the same world with a Stevie Wonder who can see...We can't make the "Have you seen Stevie Wonder's new piano..." joke anymore!
  • An article I read on this subject said that he will not gain any GOOD eyesight because of this chip implant. He will be able to see his piano (so much for that joke *sight* :o) but he will not be able to read normal text. He will only be able to make out larger clearer shapes. It dosen`t sound to me as if this will be able to help you out that much directly on you programming, but it is nevertheless a great breakthrough, and in the future it can only get better. Maby someday we will be able to create systems that can see as good as our original eyes, and communicate properly with our brain, giving the blind the posibility to see again!
    Good luck!
  • What happend to the word "bionic" is it politically incorrect and I am just out of it?

    Chip in his eye sounds like a cross of "Chip on his shoulder" and "Plank/speck in his eye."
  • That might produce ppl that lie in bed all day with a headset and do nothing but play quake, what with all them digital interfaces to the senses. One cool thing -- just think, your audio perception will no longer be limited by having to conduct sound through air. Sign me up!
  • but I'd really like some more info., like an in-depth analysis of how the optical system works; especially how it interfaces with the optic nerve.
  • He was the one of the first guys to pick up on some of Ray Kurzweil's toys, including his text reader and the first digital sampling synth.

    I'm not sure I'd want to try this, but I'm not surprised he is.

  • It sounds ridiculous, but there are still people in the "deaf culture" who oppose cochlear implants to mimic/restore hearing.. (see here, for instance, [] and this article [] as well)
  • I believe I remember it too, so you aren't imagine things. IIRC correctly, the retina's has around a millions cells, which would be equivelant to about half as many pixels (since a pixel incorporates the abilities of both a rod and a cone--er, or several rods and cones). The scanning (nuts, forgot the word) makes up for quite a bit, as does the processing capabilities of the tissue itself.

    Which brings up the larger problem, IMO: the retina has some non-trivial image processing abilities, and AFAIK none of these implants go beyond simple light sensitive plates. To restore natural vision you'd need the replicate the entire million (IIRC) retinal cells, plus take some very tiny embedded processors in behind them (or to be biologically plausible, build the processors into the light detectors). These are relatively important functions, like edge and movement detection, that I don't believe it would be wise to leave out.
  • by Gleepy ( 16226 ) on Friday December 03, 1999 @06:06PM (#1481592) Homepage
    She could not have the surgery done on account of not having the Big Bucks for the procedure. Medicaid in NY will not cover experimental procedures like these.

    I think the implant design has something to do with stimulating the optical nerve in a manner opposite of a CCD. I'm not sure about colors being visible, but I am sure for a blind person that even seeing objects in monochrome is a blessing indeed. They will still not be able to drive a car, but they may enjoy a greater standard of independent living.

  • Some of us actually look forward to a time when we can upgrade these pathetic, fragile meat bodies. I'm just saddened that it is not likely to happen before I'm dead.

    And 640K is about enough for anybody.

    And the integrated circuit is useless.

    And We can close down the patent office because everything has already been invented. This actually WAS argued in congress, IIRC, in the late 19th century.

    Why do you think that? This research will give us a "permanent" eye replacement within 10 years or so, and "upgrades" within 6 months after that. There is also research about a neural interface that we will implement also within 10-15 years. see Neural computing discussion [] Granted, this research is preliminary, but the speed of these announcements is astounding.

    Unless you're already eighty, you will definately see industrial, and possibly commercial, cybournetic implants within your lifetime.

  • by iKev ( 73931 ) on Friday December 03, 1999 @06:07PM (#1481594)
    I'm worried that since he was not born w/ sight (at least I think), how would he react ? Vision would be so alien to him, that I don't know if he could adapt to it at his age. The brain hard-wires most of its connections early in life, with decreasing plasticity as the years go by..
  • How come I can only think of one quote when I think of this actually happening with Stevie.

    "Mr. Laforge to the bridge"

    Nothing against him, but if he wears anything like in Star Trek, I'm going to start wearing a lead apron around town.

    With Star Trek issues,
  • This story goes a lot more in depth. Click here [] The one on Zdnet was only a few sentences. This one is a lot longer trust me.
  • Stevie Wonder, born Stevland Morris, was a premature baby. Medical treatment in those early days left him blind. I believe in involved oxygen exposure, but it may have been light exposure or something else.
  • by duder ( 86761 )
    let me take you down because I am going to
    strawberry fields nothing is real

    and stevie wonder and see there it is a place where you can never understand
  • As the article says, Mr. Wonder is haveing an chip placed in his eye. What it doesn't say is that hundreds more will soon follow. Mr. Wonder will soon have the largest Beowulf cluster in human history. This will lead to a his quick mutiny of the wolrds governing bodies He''ll be able to monitor everyones CD players and tell what they His dictatorship will rise to stop all those who don't like his music!!!
    This, however, is not what worries me.
    After he conquers the world he'll appoint Kathy Lee Gifford as his vice dictator...
    Be afraid, be very afraid....
  • I saw on TV that hey have decided tyhat he is NOT a good canidate for the surgery... Some other guy is gonna get it...
  • what does IIRC stand for? I apologize in advance for my ignorace of 4 letter acronyms.
  • I think the human eye is 5000x5000 pixels per eye so it definately has a LONG way to go...
  • he can finally join the world of the seeing! :P i dont know how he's gonna react, but its going to be a huge shock to him to see what he looks like and what other people look like! maybe he can see what he's playing now.
  • Wow! So this is actually an existing technology? (I wasn't sure if I should believe the article) A microchip implant in the eye to restore eyesight... sounds pretty freaky to me. Then again, he doesn't have anything to loose.

    Does anybody know how much this operation cost??? If simple laser surgery is $1500/eye, this must be in the $15K/eye or something.
  • Nope, he's right, and you left out everything below the cerebrum.

    The retina has some significant processing power of it's own--in fact, it is often used as a benchmark for measuring the brain's overall processing capabilities (wrongly, IMO, but that's not relevant). Both edge and movement detection are performed in the rear-most layer of the retina as a pre-processing step before the information is moved up the optic nerve.

    The optic nerve feeds into the LGN (the expanded form of which is difficult to spell), which performs a great deal of processing in it's own right--it was, after all, the primary visual system for millions of years--including further (much more refined) edge and movement detection, some object recognition, attention, etc.

    The result of that is forwarded to the cortex for the final processing we all know and love, which extends the capabilities of the retina and LGN greatly. However, by that stage the input has virtually no resemblance to the output from the retina, having been thoroughly digested by the lower visual systems. (One further interesting tidbit: the descending pathways, from the cortex to the LGN, have 10x the capacity of the ascending pathways. Make of that what you will.)

    (Incidentally, there are a number of us who are trying to combat cerebral chauvinism in neuroscience, and you aren't helping ;-)
  • I've seen a number of interviews with him, and watched him play live, and the thing that always impresses me is how much this guy loves music. You know that joyous expression that little kids [and mabey hackers too{grin}] have when they get a bright, shiny new toy to play with? Well, that is the expression that Stevie Wonder has when he plays. Most of us loose that expression, through growing up and other's reactions, I hope that with regaining his sight, Stevie doesn't loose his.


  • implanting a chip into his eye in

    order to try to gain some of his sight back.

    I thought he was always blind.
    But it is kinda cool. :)
  • At the risk of sounding redundant, Stevie Wonder has been on the bleeding edge of audio tech since the early '70s.

    When Yamaha introduced the GS-1, the first all-digital keyboard in 1974, Wonder had one of only two in the US (the GS-1 was a big $100,000 beast). He's also surrounded himself with smart techies like Gary Ozlabal, and was an early-adopter of 2" analog and later DASH digital audio formats.

    I wasn't suprised to see Stevie Wonder's name in the article. I was suprised that he didn't opt for the MIDI port implant instead.

  • Excessive oxygen leads to derranged development of the blood vessels in the retina of a premature infant. If there is too much overgrowth of vessels, blindness occurs. Technically, it's called Retinopathy of Prematurity.
  • Because of the size of the pupil during daylight is about 2 millimeters, tha angular resolution is physically limited to 1.22 * wavelength / 0.002, and since purple light with 400 nanometers gives the smallest angle, well use that.

    this gives a angle of 0.014 degrees, and if the eye has a field of vision of 90 degrees (this looks good in quake ;), its just a guess ) that would give a resolution of about 6000 x 6000 pixels, and note that this is the absolutely maximal resolution the eye could ever get, im not saying it has that resolution, but its defenitely not above this..

    also note that the fov is a guess, but it probably should be quite close to that, and it gives quite a approximation at least..
  • IIRC = if I recall correctly

  • My second concern is that we will have people with good eyesight getting chips put in to get better eyesight. I don't want to see the age where we all are computerized people.

    Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated. :-)

    On a more serious note, while this would be good stuff for the handicapped, it has the potential to be abused. It'd kinda be like cosmetic don't really need it, but some people aren't happy with what they're born with, or something along those lines.

    what if your eye or arm shorts out for some reason

    It'd give BSOD a whole new meaning. :-)

  • A great procedure that I am sure, although apparently attempted on 15 other people. (and I am not sure about the success rate). I heard that Stevie Wonder's sight was tooo far damaged for this procedure... unfortunate for him.
  • It was probably lack of oxygen. Lack of oxygen in premature babies is known to cause blindness or retinal detachment later on in life.
  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Friday December 03, 1999 @07:12PM (#1481620) Homepage Journal
    I want to be able to see into Infra-red. I hope they design upgradibility into the cybernetic products though, so I can move to the latest model on a regular basis. It'd be a drag to upgrade to infrared now and then not be able to upgrade to 4D accelerated HDvision later.
  • Actually he did have eyesight at an early age. He wasn't born blind. Hrmm I forget when he lost it.. I believe it was around 2 or 5 or something but he did have eyesight at one point
  • by pb ( 1020 ) on Friday December 03, 1999 @07:20PM (#1481623)
    A lot of people have missed this, but if you look at the link in the other article, the chip doesn't stay in.

    It isn't some kind of artificial vision replacement. Rather, AFAICT, it just stimulates the nerves to the point where they remember how to see again. Then the chip is removed.

    Sorry. No Star Trek story here. You can go.

    (however, the Star Trek technology might be next. I seem to remember a story about constructing an image by reading the neurons in a cat, or something. It worked, but the picture was lower res.

    I think it'd be awesome if I could replace or add, say, a thermal view of my surroundings, or a clock... It'd involve being able to add, replace or superimpose "images" in the stream of data from the eyes to the brain. Of course, goggles would be a *lot* easier. :)
    pb Reply or e-mail rather than vaguely moderate [].
  • Professor Graeme Clark developed the bionic ear, also called the Cochlear Implant, in the 1970s.

    My wife has one of these. With tiny electrodes planted in her cochlea, a woman who without it would have trouble hearing a 747 landing on her can hear at a pretty serviceable level.

    The Washington Post has an interesting article [] about rich vs. poor medicine, with the rich being U.S. pharmaceutical companies and the poor being Africans with AIDS. African countries could manufacture AIDS treatment drugs for much cheaper than they could buy them from U.S. companies, but doing so would subject them to sanctions. So "closed-source" medicine lets people die who we might save. (On the other hand, without the money from sales the drugs probably not have been developed yet, so not allowing medicines to be patented might mean even more people die.)
  • The Retinal Prosthesis Project [] has a lot of info about the technology. The doctor and university which are mentioned in the Stevie Wonder news reports are mentioned several places there.
  • We could feed video directly into the optic nerve. A few months ago researchers tapped into a few of the optic nerves of a cat and were able to decode the image which was coming from the retina. This confirms that we know how the signals on the optic nerve are encoded. If taps to the optic nerve were safely installed, we could indeed feed signals to it.

    I don't know how fast the processing would have to be to be realtime, but from what I know of the retina it should not be all that difficult.

    You can find the cat's eye discussion right here on Slashdot. Just do a search for cat eye optic nerve.

  • How many months old were you when you learned how to type? You apparently had enough plasticity.

    Actually, recall that during the last year or two that it has been found that new brain cells are continually wandering around and fastening themselves hither and yon in the brain. Even brains several decades old are getting new neurons which are learning stuff to do.

  • The retina has some significant processing power of it's own...Both edge and movement detection are performed in the rear-most layer of the retina as a pre-processing step before the information is moved up the optic nerve.

    This preprocessed information only goes directly to the old subcortical vision systems. The primary visual cortex (which is where your "conscious" vision is) gets its data directly from the retina as a raw monochrome image plus low-resolution colour data, which is mixed in at a higher level, about where groups of edges and junctions get merged into identifiable surfaces.

    ...and you left out everything below the cerebrum...The optic nerve feeds into the LGN (the expanded form of which is difficult to spell), which performs a great deal of processing in it's own right--it was, after all, the primary visual system for millions of years--including further (much more refined) edge and movement detection, some object recognition, attention, etc.

    I believe you are referring to the Lateral Geniculate Nucleus (this is off the top of my head so I can't guarantee the spelling). This has taken centre stage in subcortical processing studies lately as the old notion of the so-called "limbic system" as a complete and discrete subsystem has lost favour.

    The subcortical visual processing pathways which evolved in our premammalian ancestors are an entirely separate issue from the conscious vision I was talking about in my previous post. The subcortical pathways are almost completely hardwired according to instructions in our genes, and they don't carry an awful lot of information: just very basic notification of possible threats (eg there's something moving towards you very quickly: predator!) and possible rewards (something moving away from you very quickly: prey!).

    The result of that is forwarded to the cortex for the final processing we all know and love, which extends the capabilities of the retina and LGN greatly. However, by that stage the input has virtually no resemblance to the output from the retina, having been thoroughly digested by the lower visual systems.

    You imply that the visual cortex gets all or most of its input from the LGN. You have it completely wrong I'm afraid. There isn't any room for doubt about this; the primary visual cortex is probably the most intensively studied region of the brain and the description I gave of cortical vision in my previous post is at least broadly correct. the data definitely comes direct from the retina.

    The old subcortical sensory pathways evolved without having any substantial cortex to talk to. Their primary output is to subcortical switching centres like the thalamus, and from there on to affective systems such as motor areas in the cerebellum, autonomic systems in the brain stem regulating breathing, heart rate etc, and the adrenal response. These are relatively inflexible hardwired reflex systems - instinctive responses - originally developed for our simpler ancestors.

    The way that the cortex has been overlaid on top of that is to provide a parallel (and almost completely independent) set of alternative pathways with their own (cortical) information processing. And, as we all know, these cortical pathways are the ones that make us intelligent, perceptive - and, dare I say it - conscious.

    Now, there are secondary pathways swapping data between the subcortical and cortical systems, but these are very high level and, as you very conveniently pointed out:

    One further interesting tidbit: the descending pathways, from the cortex to the LGN, have 10x the capacity of the ascending pathways. Make of that what you will.

    In other words, these bandwidth-limited ascending pathways represent a pretty trifling quantity of information passed on to the visual cortex from the LGN. It's a highly condensed "risk analysis" passed upwards for mixing in with the detailed sensory picture provided by the cortex to give it some emotional coloration. It adds an "Aaaaargh!!" factor to the beautiful scene of that huge muscular golden lioness bounding towards you.

    The descending pathways are broader because they represent the cortex's afferent output, which is the whole point of having a cortex in the first place. These pathways feed into the old reflex pathways to modulate instinctive behaviour with intelligence and experience. Some of them are used when you "steel" yourself to do something which takes courage, or whenever you exert any kind of self-control against your base animal urges. The ones coming from deep inside the visual cortex carry learned information, (in this case, patterns representing recognised elements of a scene, such as a face you know) via the LGN to various midbrain structures where it acquires an emotional context (the face of a loved one or of a hated enemy). Whereupon appropriate signals are sent out to the hypothalamus, the brain stem etc. to prepare the body for the appropriate physical response.

    (Incidentally, there are a number of us who are trying to combat cerebral chauvinism in neuroscience, and you aren't helping ;-)

    Well, what can I say? Cortex roolz! It's what makes us human.

    Seriously, it's obvious that you're fairly well read but you have to careful not to identify too closely with certain researchers' narrow preoccupations.

    Subcortical neurology explains most of the behaviour of lower animals. It also helps us to understand a lot of human behaviour; there's no doubt that it affects us deeply, we are still basically animals precisely because of it. However it cannot explain those parts of our experience and behaviour which make us different form other animals. Our conscious lives - our language, our appreciation for music, art, good food; our thirst for knowledge, our complex sexuality - these all belong in the information-rich cortex.

    Please have a look at William H Calvin's web site [], he has (I think all of) his books online there. His background is in spinal and cerebellar neurons but he has a brilliant theory of cortical processing which goes a long way to explaining how discrimination of complex stimuli, conscious and subconscious thought, memory, learning and language all work at a neuronal and cell-assembly level. I particularly recommend How Brains Think to start with.

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • PLEASE... racist, joke deleted.... Get over yourself. Since when does circumstantial humour == racism.

    The joke is funny. I laughed when I first heard it many years ago. But it is offensive and demeaning to black people (as if you didn't know).

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • Woa! Stevie Wonder has been a KEY PLAYER in the development of sound and music technology. First of all is anyone knows anything about midi or sampling, you owe most of the modern wonders of sampled waveforms to Stevie. He has thrown money into wonderful projects such as the Kurzweil line of keyboards, as well as giving money to several start up companies that eventually failed, but whose engineers went on to pioneer the soundest for the Amiga, Advanced Logic Audio, and a dozen other top plays in the multimedia and music production field. His contributions in the development of synthesizers and college aged dreamers are to be commended. I don't have proper links off hand (at work) but I can easily obtain stories upon stories of advancements made as a direct result of his ideas as well as the amount of money he gave/lent to tinker's.

    Just thought I would throw a line out there for those who don't know, and personally I don't care much for his music.

  • Actually, we all see everything upside down. Our brain just flips it back around when it goes to form a mental, um, picture of what you're seeing. The brain is amazing in its ability to cope with things like this. I remember reading about an experiment in which the subjects wore glasses that flipped the world upside down; after a while, their brains had corrected and the world appeared rightside-up.


  • That movie is called "At First Sight" it's pretty good...especially as a date movie. It doesn't seem as Hollywoodized as most "true story" films,'s just good.

  • From all that I have read, everything I could find, the chip's use is focused on people who slowly lost vision due to disease. Stevie has been blind from birth, therefore, implanting the chip on his retina would be against the norm for what the researchers are testing.
  • I think this Yahoo! article gives a good overview of his background, including his blindness.

    Stevie Wonder at Yahoo! []

  • Victims of regular casual racism don't complain every single time it happens. Besides, if the demographics of slashdot readers were anything like that of the IT industry, or of the web surfing public as a whole (a matter of public record in both cases) then black people would be under-represented here.

    I'm in the right, here. I tried to do the right thing, you're behaving like an insensitive, arrogant wanker. End of conversation. +++ATH

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • I wonder, did they pull the chip out of an iMac?

    (That would lend an interesting new meaning to the line "you are the Apple(tm) of my eye...")

    groan... sorry folks.

  • This hit about a month and a half ago, from a widely publicised article in the Journal of Neuroscience. Here's [] Wired's article; a bit more technical is this abstract [], complete with a few pretty pictures (I love Google). I'm sure Slashdot picked it up too.

    One neat thing is that research hits published journals often years after the experiments were performed. I'm sure things have progressed much since the cat experiements were done.
  • These chips work by stimulating the optic nerves that are left in the eye. This technology will probably never be an upgrade. Think 640 X 480 resolution for your everyday sight. Making a new interface to the brain on the other hand...
  • Unless people start freaking out about "unnatural" modifications, of course. I am a little worried about that laws that will start to happen when this tech gets more advanced - it's very, very, very primitive right now - how about when you could get enhanced vision? Or strain-free screens to read off of? (via a direct digital connection!)

    There is reason to be worried. Since our society isn't going to do away with money anytime soon, and this stuff isn't free, this could just further polarize society. Don't have those optic enhancers? Sorry, you can't be a pilot. Don't have those memory enhancers? Sorry, you can't be a scientist. We DO need very specific laws on this because the potential for misuse is so big. Our government is still clueless on the "information age", much less all the new advancements in biotech.

    More importnantly, do we really want to turn ourselves in into the borg? This sounds silly now, but there isn't much discussion into the future. New tech? If it makes us money, go for it!! Damn the consequences! :(
  • There's an interesting sci-fi scenario that might be relevant here. Basically, in the future, medical health technology comes to dominate society. The rich try to live forever, the poor can't, and everyone is taxed on how healthy they can stay without spending medical money. You thought the gap between rich and poor was bad before... think about what this means. Social Darwinism back in force. Is this what we want when we think of a working human society?
  • I've read the story you mention. The main difficulty wasn't in the fact that he wasn't "confident" enough in using his vision, it was the fact that he didn't know *how* to use his vision.

    His brain, having almost no training in decoding visual images, didn't know how to do many things that we take for granted, such as determining the difference between a dog and a cat (without touching/hearing it, of course). I recall it being mentioned that learning colors was fairly easy for him, but shapes were difficult. He couldn't tell the difference between a circle and a square, for example. If anyone else is interested in this topic, the story is excellently written and is very thought-provoking. It's very interesting to imagine what sight would be like to a person who had no idea what he was seeing...
  • It's really too bad that they didn't put any of the specifications of the implant in the article. I was actually kinda disappointed, that more attention (or at least keystrokes) wasn't paid to the article.
    Not that I expect this, but if anybody out there knows anything more about this story, or has another source that we can check out, perhaps with a little more detail, I'd be happy to see it.

    Seems to me, that in order for it to be journalism, one should actually investigate it a little bit. Maybe I'm being a bit harsh.

  • Hasn't he always been blind? I don't pay too much attention to him, but I thought he's always been blind, well since a little while after birth. I think it would be good for him to see again, I just think it would be a total shock for someone who has no recollection of seeing the world to suddenly have some site.
  • Even just being able to see large objects would be a marked improvement over total blindness.

    I have several friends who are legally blind, one who has eyesight to this level can get around town with only a cane to alert him to trip hazards, and easily do things like pick up a dropped pillow without having to fumble for it.

    Even just having the ability to tell darkness from light could be worthwile, as it could be used to tell which way you are orientated in a room, by detecting where the windows are.

  • by xtal ( 49134 ) on Friday December 03, 1999 @06:13PM (#1481692)

    This is great news for all of us, even the perfect sighted. I think that one of the obstacles to development in these arenas is that the people with the expertise in one field - imaging, robotics - are rarely trained in the fields of medicine. Biomedical Engineering has the potential for many great things, and I think we're just beginning to see what can be achieved when we start engineering our bodies.

    Unless people start freaking out about "unnatural" modifications, of course. I am a little worried about that laws that will start to happen when this tech gets more advanced - it's very, very, very primitive right now - how about when you could get enhanced vision? Or strain-free screens to read off of? (via a direct digital connection!)

    Sound far fetched? Maybe, but then again, we were all using gopher 6 years ago.

    Not going to happen, you say? Icky? Maybe. Someone that's got modifications will have a _competitive advantage_ over you, and might learn better, or faster, or be able to do more.

    Welcome to the borg - friendlier, happier, but definately where we're headed. I might not live to see it.. but who knows when nanotech gets off the ground to splice into nerves :).


  • It's hard for me to imagine what new senses we could create.

    I can imagine extending our existing senses to ranges that they cannot currently handle, for example infrared vision, or to hear the intensity of the magnetic field, or anything similar to that, but creating a totally new sense? I can't imagine it

  • If my post was patronizing it was only appropriate as a response to the equally patronizing tone of your prior post. Look, sometimed it's hard to disagree without treading on people's toes. The only way to proceed is to try not to be too sensitive, and be prepared to admit defeat when beaten.

    On with the show...

    You are the champion of retinal processing, not me. As far as I'm concerned retinal processing is quite low-level. There may be motion detection built in but this is most likely used only by subcortical pathways since the cortex also has motion detection of its own. Apart from the that retinal processing only consists of cleaning up the signal.

    Parallel pathways exist all throughout the brain. I doubt that the optic nerve contains duplicate pathways for cortical and subcortical vision but this is hardly necessary anyway since the little higher level information from the retina (eg motion data) would only need to use a small number of specialised neurons hardly amounting to a complete duplication.

    Hence, your question about how unprocessed information gets to the cortex when it's already been processed before it gets there is irrelevant. Raw monochrome information is transmitted alongside colour information and possibly motion information. They all pass by the thalamus, but the former two (at least) continue all the way to the cortex.

    I've nothing more to say about retinal processing because photoradiographs of suitably dosed live visual cortex show irrefutably that the visual field is passed to it largely unchanged from the retina. Hence, as I said, there is no room for doubt. If there is any retinal processing, it's not important for cortical vision. It's just a camera which has some sophisticated error correction features to partially compensate for its design flaws.

    Reciting the names of your heroes, even if they are right (and many of the claims they make are pure speculation) doesn't mean that you have understood them correctly. Forgive me, but it seems as if you are trying to construct an argument about sensory perception involving a lot of different subsystems, from a partial understanding of a very limited and specific area of brain research.

    Crick and the others make much of the LGN because that's what they're interested in. They're making a point about the way the thalamus modulates the conscious processing going on in the cortex. However that doesn't imply that this is the only role of the thalamus, doesn't imply that the cortical connections originating from the thalamus are more numerous or more important than those originating from the retina, and doesn't imply that that cortical vision doesn't modulate the subconscious visual processing going on in the midbrain.

    As far as evolution goes, I'll work up the theory for you: simple animals with no significant cortex evolved with relatively simple behaviour patterns (instincts) encoded entirely in subcortical pathways. Some animals were born with duplicated pathways which got organized differently and became cortex. This cortex enabled more detailed processing of sensory input and more creative generation of behaviour, supplementing and modulating the subcortical machinery, thus conferring survival advantage.

    What's implausible about that?

    You say that cortical pathways don't make us perceptive. Since roughly half of the cortex is concerned with processing sensory input (of which we are conscious) and which disappears when the relevant bit of cortex is taken away, I can't quite understand what you mean by that.

    You also said cortical pathways don't make us conscious. Then you elaborated:

    consciousness is not a cortical function

    I'd like to see you prove that!

    I didn't claim consciousness was merely a cortical function, anyway (see closing statement below).

    I did say that "conscious" vision comes from the cortex, and that's directly proven from studies of people with blindness due to neuropathy or brain injury (eg blindsight, prosopagnosia). I also said (with tongue firmly in cheek) that cortical pathways make us conscious.

    Well, if you remove a human's visual cortex they report no conscious experience of vision, if you remove their auditory cortex they report no conscious experience of hearing, and if you remove their frontal lobes they exhibit no conscious mental activity at all even when their motor areas remain intact. I admit to the limitations of the behaviourist perspective but it's kind of hard to ignore the evidence all the same.

    In the theoretical opposite case extrapolated from other brain damage case histories, if a human could be kept alive without most of his subcortex, he could probably still exhibit some apparently conscious behaviour but I expect he'd not have much to say about qualia which is what it's all supposed to be about. Actually this may become a real experiment sooner rather later. An Australian scientist recently announced an experiment where he was to temporarily deactivate parts of his brain using tuned oscillating electromagnetic fields.

    So, in my opinion "consciousness" (the kind contemplated in the so-called "hard problem") is not a single unitary thing anyway. There's a whole spectrum of states of consciousness depending on how many parts of your brain are missing or otherwise in relative states of inactivity.

    PS. I don't agree with some of Crick's work, and on the rest I don't have an opinion one way or the other because some of his conclusions go a little beyond what is warranted by the evidence. I try to keep an open mind. There's no doubt that almost all of the most exciting and revealing research right now is subcortical - there's so much structure there to be discovered. And so much of human nature is built on the same model as the rest of our animal cousins.

    But the immense flexibility and power of the cortex in Calvin's model should not be discounted. It represents all of the capabilities we have that are uniquely human.

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • Not a WHOLE lot better, but at least it's more than a single paragraph on this topic: SHOWBIZ/Music/12/03/stevie.wonder/ []

  • This is the third time I've tried to reply to this: the first time Netscape on Win98SE locked up, the second time Netscape on Linux locked up. Of course, in both cases it only decided to refuse access after a substantial amount of work.

    So this time I'm going to be brief.

    Crick and Koch and hundreds of other researchers (who I have read, in refereed journals like Trends in Cognitive Science) doing subcortical stuff make reasonable claims about subcortical perception and affect. But they don't claim that the cortex is idle, they are just focusing their effort elsewhere.

    There are decades of cortical studies which have laid out how visual processing occurs in Primary Visual Cortex (PVC), handling low-level feature detection, motion detection and shape recognition; and also how there are pathways which send this information to other areas of cortex for recognition of higher-order stimuli and for association with inputs from other sensory modalities.

    I again refer you to the photoradiographs of monkey PVC. They prove beyond doubt that retinal inputs arrive at the PVC largely unaltered by the subcortex. Even though the pathways do come through the LGN. It must be inferred that the LGN adds information to the retinal signal rather than replacing it with something completely different.

    Gotta run now, more later.

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • Continued.

    This is what I mean about being a pretentious ass. Those were the books I happened to have in front of me at the moment. I never said I agreed with them completely, or even mostly, but simply that there statements contradict your own. To be honest, I think Crick is wrong, and Churchland is a looney, but that doesn't mean they can't report empirical results. And until you can provide some references or credentials, they're opinions far outweigh yours.

    I never contested their empirical results. They are at least rigorous enough as experimentalists.
    But do their opinions outweigh mine? Even if their opinions are not fully supported by their own results, and even if neither you nor I believe them, and even if *my* opinions are merely an expression of the establishment view? I think you overstate your case.

    the cortex is not required for perception

    It's been adequately established that cortex is required for conscious perception in humans (see below).

    Animals lacking a cortex may be conscious. QED.

    You're just being contentious, you can't possibly believe that because (i) QED means "that which is proven" while consciousness is not amenable to normal standards of proof even in humans; and (ii) to define consciousness broadly enough to encompass mental states in both humans and sea slugs would render the term practically useless.

    The Journal of Consciousness Studies devoted an issue to the subject of blindsight, which included a few articles proposing that some (stressing some, of course) people afflicted with blindsight may be consciously perceiving, but unable to consciously report it, due to damage to their introspective abilities.
    It could be that, for example, they are consciously seeing, in a loose sense of the term, via subcortical routes, but cannot say so since their linguistic processing is entirely encapsulated. The cortically based systems used for language are designed to accept sensory input from the cortical sensory systems, and in their absence assume there is none.

    Blindsight patients don't only fail to admit verbally to blindfield visual stimuli. They also fail to react physically in any manner which requires conscious assessment or determination. In the studies I've read about, the only direct reactions that occur appear to be fully subconscious, and indirect conscious reactions only occur when the subject receives substantial prompting.

    To claim that blindfield vision is conscious in such cases therefore implies a completely isolated visual consciousness incapable of affecting anything else except via the subconscious. It's plausible to speak of multiple indpendent consciousnesses in subjects with severed corpus callosum; at least each hemisphere is well-equipped enough to constitute a complete independent consciousness. But can a visual processing system be conscious all by itself? The term 'conscious' can't be meaningfully applied to a small lump of brain tissue dedicated to a single passive function.

    BTW, JCS is a lot of fun and I dip into it regularly, but it's not the most serious publication. Consciousness studies are still mainly empty philosophising notwithstanding Crick's efforts.

    You have made several statements along the lines of "there is no room for doubt" and "this has been proven", yet you seem utterly unable to provide any references beyond Calvin.

    I don't remember who did the photoradiographs, I saw it many years ago in Colin Blakemore's The Mind Machine and I no longer have the book. I don't memorize lists of citations because I'm not a professional neurologist, I'm a dilettante who reads this stuff out of pure curiosity for my own amusement. However, I try to keep a broad view and I think I know what is what.

    I certainly value my own objective (if undereducated) opinion this much: I remain sceptical about theories promoted by both narrow-minded specialists with a need to justify their next grant application, and I remain sceptical aout the work of eminent scientists practising their eminence outside of the field in which they won it.

    The only current exception I make to this is Calvin, because his theory explains perfectly so much that is otherwise yet unexplained. Even if it turns out not to be completely correct, a cortex built according to his principles does look as if it would exhibit all the features of human memory, learning, cognition and yes even consciousness. The subcortical studies you are fond of are very important I agree. But I maintain that the cortex is capable of much neater stuff.

    I beseech you to go back and have another look at those LGN studies, and consider: what if they just meant that the LGN added extra high-level information to an existing complete retinal map headed for the PVC? And going further, what if they were even mistaken about that, the ascending pathways remain clean and the high-level information generated in the LGN only goes to afferent subcortical destinations? Would their observations still make sense?

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • by chandoni ( 28843 ) on Friday December 03, 1999 @08:24PM (#1481705) Homepage
    Even though Stevie Wonder is supposedly not an ideal candidate for the procedure (due to having been without sight so long) at least his undertaking it might draw attention and well-needed research funds for people developing this sort of implant.

    Christopher Reeve has done way more for attracting attention (and $$) for research in neuron regeneration and spinal cord injuries than any number of scientists could!

  • Well, this idea does not sound all that appealing to me, in fact, appalling might be a better term that come to mind.
    One has to carefully consider the ramifications of allowing these types of "artifical" modifications to the human body.
    The first thing I believe that will happen is that the rich will start to get the modifications, this there will be a class distinction where the rich are covered with capability enhancing modifications while the poor get nothing.
    Quickly, it will become as popular to an eye with a built-in feed to the internet as it would be to today get a new Lexus.
    Eventually over time, the rich will barely be rocognizable as human.
    There a great anime called I think the "Starlight Express" or something like that which predicts just such a future (great movie by the way), and it's really not that hard to imagine it actually happening.
    Oh well, that said, where do I sign up for the x-ray vision eyes? Now that would come in handy!

  • How do you suppose Bill will leverage this one to force the OS to be wince? (Oops, 'Windoze powered...' :)

    Will we be seeing warnings like:

    "I'm sorry, but I've patented sight, you'll need to pay a royalty everytime you open your eyes."

    "What do you want to see today?"

    "MSEyes have detected a change in your field of vision. You must reboot for these changes to become visible."

    "You must now install the new 'Eye patch 2.0' Service Pack. Please stare directly at your monitor while the next web page loads."

    Will M/$ force a browser to be integrated?

    Does BSOD become BEOD? Blue Eyes Of Death? (I've known some women who already have this capability.)

    Will it be compiled by "Visual See++?"

    Additional Function?:

    Make the infrared receiver a transceiver with input from the muscles around the eye so that you can change the channel on your TV or turn the stereo volume up and down with a blink.

    Does this mean that I can reprogram it with my Palm IIIx?

    Just some points to ponder... :)

  • Here's an interesting question: Could we "manufacture" new senses for ourselves?

    For someone who has never seen, that's exactly what this would be like - you make an input device sensitive to our visible light spectrum, feed it into his brain, and it hopefully learns over time to interpret the signals until he has another sense that just feels natural.

    I see no reason to believe that the human brain is not adaptive enough to add new arbitrary senses. Of course, I am no expert in such things and if any of you out there are, please correct me.

    Imagine the possibilities though - anything that we currently make equipment for! We could have a new device that would help us to "sense" our global position via GPS, radiation levels in the area, supersonic or subsonic viabrations, and so on...

    And of course we can't forget the obvious - an infrared sensor with that certain sony handycam kind of filter. Clothes, begone!

  • Naw. As soon as becomes a useful (albeit expensive) technology, you know what will happen?

    Easy - someone like Alladvantage will come along and pay for your surgery. In return, you'll have to put up with a small bar at the bottom of your vision containing paid-for advertising. It's only off when you're asleep (maybe) or perhaps for a few user-selectable hours each day - enough so that you can get a rest or drive or something. The rest of the time, your vision is auctioned off to the highest bidder. Younger people would be more desirable, as more ad impressions would be possible.

    Sound kind of sick? Well, maybe. But you know that someone will think of it, for better or for worse.

    - Jeff A. Campbell
    - VelociNews ( [])
  • This chip only works on people who still have some undamaged tissue in their eye. You still have to scientifically be able to see - your rods and cones have to function - and all this chip does is restore some broken links in the pathway from eye to brain. Wonder's eyes are too far gone for this to be possible. This treatment has helped certain blind people to regain minimal sight, but it won't help Stevie Wonder. I still don't really know why the media ate this one up. Star power I guess. Anyways, it won't happen.
    "Some people say that I proved if you get a C average, you can end up being successful in life."
  • "Now normally a Stevie Wonder story probably wouldn't make it on Slashdot..."

    Anything about The Who, on the other hand, would be immediately posted without hesitation ;-).
  • Wow, I actually thought that this story was some kind of sick joke when I first saw the headlines. I had no idea that we could make the blind see again with a microchip! That could indeed be great news for alot of people.
    I do have a few concerns though. The biggest being that I would like to have surgery to correct my vision, but it is quite expensive. I am wondering if one would have to have Stevie Wonder's fortune to afford such an infinetely more complicated procedure such as the implant of a chip into your eye? If it is to be horribly expensive will insurance cover it?
    My second concern is that we will have people with good eyesight getting chips put in to get better eyesight. I don't want to see the age where we all are computerized people. Lord knows the human body isn't an unbreakable machine, but it is far more durable than a computer, I mean what if your eye or arm shorts out for some reason, then you have what was a perfectly good eye/arm going haywire because you wanted it to be better.
    Aw, well I guess I am over reacting, I don't think that we will see healthy people getting these soon, and I have always felt sorry for people with such large disabilities as blindness and paralysis. If this technology can help those people to see or walk again than it would be worth the abuse that it could potential have.
    By the way, in the above paragraph I just sort of looked into the future about fixing the paralyzed people, the article from ZD was very short, does anyone know if this eye chip technology could help spinal chord injuries and such as well?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    this might help
  • I heard some things about implanting electronic eyes before but they were incredibly bad resolution (4 pixels) have they improved this?

    Secondly does he see the same colors we do? The human eye distingushes color by only three components (RGB) rather then the full frequency spectrum (hence why you can differnt wavelenghts to get similar colors).

    There are plenty of examples of cases this isn't true (for instance cameras expose as greenish in florescent lights. If it is still a very small resolution infared might be more useful to distingush people and so forth.
  • by athom ( 88135 ) on Friday December 03, 1999 @06:21PM (#1481730) Homepage
  • by _Dante_ ( 14004 ) on Friday December 03, 1999 @06:22PM (#1481731) Homepage
    Here are some links I found with more information on this 'chip' thing:
    • The Retinal Implant Project [] useful interesting background on this or a similar operation
    • An article on the same at ABCNews [](in laymans terms)
    • More info here []
    • Finally, a paper [] on the chip.

    Most Links! :)
  • If it works, more power to him. But I don't recall ever hearing about any real-world trials of anything like this before; is this a new thing?

    Also, I thought Stevie Wonder was born blind. Considering his age, being able to see is probably going to take a LOT of getting used to (who knows; after so many years of being blind, suddenly gaining sight could very well drive a person insane through the relative sensory overload). I wish him the best of luck, though.

    Come to think of it, the only way we'll ever really be able to know if this works as well as "normal" human vision is to try it on someone who wasn't born blind, so that person can compare. It'll certainly be interesting to see (pardon the pun) how such an experiment would turn out.

    Wait, one last thing. Where exactly do they plan to put this chip? Putting it physically inside the eye would probably not be a Good Thing. Unless you put it on the optic disk it'd block part of the retina, and the chip complete with neural interfaces would probably be too big to fit over the disk.
  • True enough, mostly. However, you can make a case for using behavior to discern whether a subject is conscious (e.g. blindsighted people behave differently than either blind or normal people). Such research has been done of reptiles, as reported in, I believe Science News a few months ago.

    ...I don't [define consciousness broadly]. Unfortunately, no one, myself included, makes their definition clear at the outset. I define consciousness as being almost synonymous with experience, that is, possessing qualia. I say "almost" because I tend to follow Whitehead in the details.

    That said, I have seen no reason why lower mammals, reptiles, and birds, can't be conscious. In fact, if Panksepp and Watt are correct--expirimentally correct, not simply theoretically--then reptiles mark the emergence of consciousness.

    I've probably said more about consciousness than I really intended and perhaps even more than I really meant. If you want to know my position on consciousness then have a look at my signature. If you can't be bothered to enable signatures, it's probably enough to know that I believe Daniel Dennett to be one of the very few people making any sense of the subject.

    You could save a lot space if you stopping stating things we both know.

    Sorry, but you seemed to imply that some blindsight symptoms may be due to having the language centres disconnected. I was merely pointing out why this cannot provide the explanation.

    I said it implies a compartmentalized introspective consciousness, one that is lacking information-rich connections beyond the cortex. The blinsighted subjects may be lacking an ability to introspect consciously, while still being able to have 'external' conscious experiences.

    That's fairly horrific. You mean that a chunk of rational "thinking" brain is cut off, blind and deaf, whilt the rest of the brain continues experiencing life unaware of its silent passenger? You're going to give me bad dreams mate. At least both halves of a post-surgical epileptic get an roughly equal share of effect and affect. Still, the picture you paint is only speculation isn't it? I have a hard time sometimes figuring out which of your arguments are straw men and which are real.

    ...people's behavior, abilities, etc, change drastically when they are asked to report about them, vs. when they are simply using them.

    That's a tricky point because it can be interpreted in two ways. One interpretation is that the problem only appears under unnatural conditions of laboratory testing and so is not quite genuine. This doesn't really explain anything though. The other interpretation is that the problems in reporting experience are a direct consequence of the functional asymmetry of the brain. The experiments are intended to show how the left side doesn't know directly what the right side is doing, and sometimed in particular to show how one hemisphere is inarticulate and the other has a poor visiospatial sense. Which explains the inability to talk about what the inarticulate side is doing quite well IMO.

    Speaking as a (semi)professional philosopher, and JCS subscriber, I should probably be insulted.

    Don't be. I had this [] to say about philosophy earlier tonight.

    You keep assuming that your opinion has the validity of objective fact, to the extent that you will deny any and all evidence I present.

    I'm not "denying" the "evidence". I just don't place the same interpretation on these observations as you do. And I hardly regard it as uniquely "my opinion". I didn't make this stuff up myself.

    This is ridiculous. Are you so unwilling to lose this argument that you would actually claim that every description of the visual system I've found (there were many I didn't include above) is wrong? Look at the last link I tossed re: the LGN (labeled "This"). That is an anatomical description of the visual paths from the retina. Not a theory, nor a proposal for research. A simple description of what connections exist, and where they go.

    These are apparently college lecture notes. Not exactly authoritative. And they are brief to the point of obfuscation. For example the section "LGN->Primary Visual Cortex" doesn't make explicit on which end of that pathway the "primal sketch" is formed or if it's even known. I can see how you might have been led astray if your reading did not include certain earlier cortical research.

    Skepticism is one thing, but you're bordering outright solipsism.

    *sigh*. And you started out so well. I'm finding this constant hostility a bit wearing but I'll try to ignore it just one more time.

    The important thing is that you don't admit to the limited scope of the descriptions to which you're referring. They omit to mention (perhaps because it's generally so well known from classic empirical studies and therefore assumed) that the visual field is also represented to the Primary Visual Cortex in its entirety and in all the available retinal detail. If you're still demanding citations, I'm sorry but this is so elementary you're only going to find them in freshman neurology textbooks, which I no longer have.

    Everybody knows it goes through the Lateral Geniculate Body, so what? It does not change the fact that the Primary Visual Cortex gets *all* the retinal data in a mostly raw form. The LGN does not need to generate that information since it is already available in a suitable format at the LGN's inputs. The information that came from the retinae is simply forwarded more or less "as is". Even though modulated to some degree the full extent of which is still an open question. Even though the LGN also sends its own higher-order information to the PVC, eg maybe some depth processing information.

    Nor does the presence of simple visual processing pathways in the LGN change the fact that the Primary Visual Cortex possesses much more detailed and extensive visual processing equipment better suited to processing high resolution "conscious" vision from, for want of a better term, a pixel-by-pixel basis upward.

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • Agreed. However, if you go back an read my posts--as I've just done--I never said anything to the contrary. (Well, except in my first post, where I accidentally ommited the PVC and simply refered to 'cortex processing' instead of 'SVC porocessing' and 'temporal lobe' processing.) This little war started when you said the cortex has a direct connection to the retina.

    Ah, so when we get down to it do we actually agree on a supportive role of the LGN? And "quality" processing in the cortex? All that flameage was for nothing then. That's the problem with taking a position - one can inadvertently make a remark more extreme than was intended. I myself prefer less, er, polarised debate.

    I'm still not sure about the relative importance of feature/motion detection in human retinae (which is where this thread really started). The lowest levels of processing in primate cortex are occupied with precisely what you attribute to the retina. The only animals I *know* for sure to use the retina as a primary feature and motion detection system are amphibians, which don't even have a geniculate body.

    It seems to me that *if* there is any similar wiring still present in the human retina then it's probably just a relic, too much trouble to get rid of so to speak, although it might still be used in very primitive subcortical vision pathways well below the LGN (terminating at the superior colliculus). The only retinal wiring I know about for sure is the layer that groups rods with overlapping receptive fields such that a smooth picture can be generated. This is the "packaging" for transmission that you refer to.

    This little war started when you said the cortex has a direct connection to the retina.

    Well I meant it, but you must have misinterpreted what I meant by "direct". I didn't mean the pathway consisted of a bundle of single unbroken axons in a straight line! I meant it in the same sense that a telephone call is end-to-end even though it passes through switches in at least one telephone exchange; even if there are wiretappers on the line, the conversation itself gets through undistorted.

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • He was born with sight: he could see until he was five, IIRC.

    i dont display scores, and my threshhold is -1. post accordingly.
  • by ecampbel ( 89842 ) on Friday December 03, 1999 @06:27PM (#1481749)
    An Excite story [] explains this whole situation a lot better. Slashdot should really demand better citations.

    It turns out Wonder has not made any public statements regarding the procedure. A tabloid reported that he told a congregation that he was planning on getting his site back, but the doctor that is running the clinic has said he has not made an apoitment. Besides, an examination would have to be done first to see if he is even a candidate. Still pretty cool even if Wonder is not planning the procedure.
  • by _outcat_ ( 111636 ) on Friday December 03, 1999 @06:28PM (#1481750) Homepage Journal
    I'm just a young tike (still in high school) so...why is Stevie Wonder blind? I realize he was born that way...but what congenital affliction is this?

    Also, hm. I really would like more information on this article. It seems to me that vision would be far too alien a sense for him; I've read cases like this. Hang on, let me find the book...

    Okay. It's Oliver Sacks' book "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat". It details probably about 20 cases Dr. Sacks, a noted neurologist, treated, got to know, and gained valuable insight from. (He's a heckuva writer--check out his books if you're interested in the brain and the mind that drives it.)

    A man named Virgil (I believe it was--I can't find the book right now) was blind from the time he was a young child; he had an operation when he was 50 or 60 that restored his vision, and at first, he was able to see vibrantly, clearly, like a new window of existence reopened after many years.

    He visited his childhood home, and even though he was like 2 or 3 when his vision went, he could see most clearly the things he remembered, such as a fence and a field, I believe. (Again, I can't find the book; please correct me if I'm wrong!;] )

    However, when he returned back to his home in a city, it began to be harder and harder for him to use his sight confidently. He'd resort to closing his eyes and acting "blind" because he was the most confident this way--traffic rushing by him made him nervous and indecisive.

    Eventually, due to a combination of psychological and physical factors, his vision deteriorated again. I don't know if he's still around or not, but it would be kinda cool to meet someone like that.

    I dunno. It'd be interesting to find out how Stevie Wonder turns out. I'd HATE to have a chip in my eye. Contacts bother me enough.

  • by CrayDrygu ( 56003 ) on Friday December 03, 1999 @06:28PM (#1481751)

    This brings up a kind of interesting allusion to Star Trek. I always thought Geordi's visor was pretty amazing. Not only did it cure his blindness, but it was like an entire set of military-type scopes: infra-red, night vision, all sorts of odd but useful things.

    Once this technology that's going into Wonder gets refined to the point where it actually has a decent resolution, I can't imagine it would be that hard to implement a bunch of different sensors/cameras for it. In fact, they might even be able to develop some sort of (waterproof, hopefully, to prevent shorts) external connector, and actually create a visor like Geordi's =)

    Looks like a piece of Star Trek technology could become a reality in our lifetimes, eh?

  • by konstant ( 63560 ) on Friday December 03, 1999 @06:28PM (#1481752)
    As others have mentioned, Stevie Wonder has never had eyesight. No matter what results the experiments bring, he will be unabled to measure them against a remembered standard.

    He might see everything upside down, or in 2d or in shades of green, and to him that would seem like complete success. Heck, all he might see is a rotating Head of Rob Malda and he would give the thumbs up "Is that what a sunset looks like? It's beautiful!"

    I wish him luck. Can you imagine your world suddenly expanding to include another sense?


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