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Woman Receives First ‘Pre-Bionic’ Eye Implant

A team of Australian researchers have created the world's first 'pre-bionic' visual implant, laying the ground for a camera-based implant as the technology evolves in the years ahead. 

What’s the Latest Development?

Australian researchers have given a woman the first ‘pre-bionic’ visual implant, allowing her to see flashes of light despite her inherited blindness. The implant, which is placed behind the retina, contains 24 electrodes. “A small lead wire extends from the back of the eye to a connector behind the ear. An external system is connected to this unit in the laboratory, allowing researchers to stimulate the implant in a controlled manner in order to study the flashes of light. Feedback from [the patient] will allow researchers to develop a vision processor so that images can be built using flashes of light.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Dr. Penny Allen, a specialist surgeon at the Centre for Eye Research Australia who led the procedure, said: “This is a world firstwe implanted a device in this position behind the retina, demonstrating the viability of our approach.” The research team is working closely to record what exactly what is seen by a person with the implant, “looking for consistency of shapes, brightness, size and location of flashes to determine how the brain interprets this information.” Researchers say the technology used to create the implant will continue to evolve in the years ahead, laying the ground for a camera-based implant. 

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