This advancement in technology allows visually impaired people to see again. Thanks to cybernetic eye implants or bionic eyes, some people no longer have to worry about being permanently blind. So, what happens during a cybernetic eye implant? Let’s find out.
What the patient experiences
Cybernetic eye implants or visual prostheses promise to offer artificial vision to people who can’t see currently but had been able to previously. Many people lose their sight due to injuries or accidents. It’s can be a nightmare to lead a life without being able to see. Imagine walking around blindfolded your entire life. Cybernetic eye implants can at least help some people see again by using devices that have micro-electrodes which are placed strategically near the damaged eye. These electrodes run alongside the optic nerve.
The micro-electrodes transmit impulses from the eye of the person to their brain. It takes time to get used to this new addition to the brain, but eventually, the person will be able to see again. The micro-electrodes used in this process stimulate different parts of a person’s visual system, ones that are still functional. If someone loses their eyesight due to some unforeseen incident, some parts of their visual system still remain active. The micro-electrodes send tiny impulses to these parts to revive their functional ability. It is similar in some ways to a cochlear implant.
The continuous electrical stimulations on the surviving neurons allow the patient to perceive small and sudden spots of light known as phosphenes. This phenomenon involves experiencing the sensation of seeing light, but without the light entering the eyes. The experts performing the cybernetic eye implants map a visual scene while using this technology. So, the patient’s eye gets programmed to see what has been mapped using these phosphenes.
The bionic eye vision is not the same as natural sight. The continuous flashing spots will help interpret the environment the patient is in. It requires significant training; similar to what a flashing mosaic looks like. The vision obtained from this technology is still very basic. They are usually limited to finding a doorway, detecting an object or person and other basic cognition. It may not be perfect but it is still better than no sight at all.
What the experts experience
The experts involved in taking this technology forward want to make sure that they can expand the visual map in this process. This will help the patient to see a wider range of things. The objective here is to take these flashing spots to a level that will possibly resemble natural eyesight eventually. However, the patient will still have to undergo extensive training. They will possibly be able to see a lot more than just basic identification of various objects.
Moreover, the patient’s brain is conditioned to identify a specific set of objects after a cybernetic eye implant but this may take things a step further. For example, the patient may identify a bat and ball, but may not understand what a football looks like. That is because their eye and brain are still not conditioned to identify a football. So, scientists and researchers are trying to utilize this technology and take it to a level where they can increase the map and help patients identify more objects for a better range of vision.