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Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Scientists give sight to the blind by drawing shapes directly on their brains

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A team of researchers from UCLA and Baylor developed a method for drawing symbols – including letters and shapes – directly on the human brain using electrical stimulation. The result allows people who have completely lost their sense of vision to perceive the forms as “views”.

the new process bypasses the human eye and the optic nerve and uses electricity to stimulate the electrodes implanted in the visual cortex, located at the back of the brain. This works through dynamic stimulation, which means that instead of sending stimulation in the form of a fully formed letter, researchers trace the letter directly to the brain in real time.

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The following video is taken from a report Scientific news, it shows a user receiving inputs via his brain implant and correctly interpreting what he sees by drawing it on a screen in front of him:

Basically, it’s the same principle as writing a note on your friend’s back with your finger. Your Pall can say what you write when you form each letter, because he can follow the process of unfolding. Instead of forcing all of the electrodes to send information in the form, for example, of a letter U at a time, the system turns the electrodes on sequentially so that the recipient can easily determine which form is being conveyed.

The researchers tested their system on two blind subjects and four sighted people who already had brain implants as part of the treatment for epilepsy. The results were astounding. Under different paradigms, participants regularly perceived good form in their minds with an accuracy between 80 and 93%.

Perhaps even more surprisingly, the participants managed to correctly report up to 86 correct answers per minute. This level of rapid dissemination of information could lead to a complete revolution in accessibility for the visually impaired.

Imagine connected sensors in public spaces that could alert the visually impaired to everything from the moment it is safe to cross the street to the way the aisle of products is in a grocery store using only the power of suggestion electric. Although researchers have tested only simple shapes such as the letters C and Z, there are many things that can be done with just numbers, letters and arrows.

For the time being however, this technology is stuck in the experimental phase. The need for invasive implants makes it less than optimal for treating visual impairment in its current iteration. But it is a fascinating step in the right direction.

For more information, see the team research document here.

H / t: Scientific news

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