Imagine peering into the back of someone’s eye and seeing an array of electrodes like the ones here. These aren’t pictures from a Hollywood cyborg movie, but real photos of the eyeballs of blind people who have had retinal implants – microchips designed to stimulate the nerves at the back of the eye in response to light. Known as Argus II, these chips have been put into patients who have lost their sight due to a disease called retinitis pigmentosa. Although the implants don’t fully restore sight and take a lot of practice to use, they enable patients to distinguish the difference between dark and light. This improves over time, showing that the parts of the brain that receive visual information can be retrained and rewired even in adults. There’s a long way to go before these chips can truly enable the blind to see, but the picture is becoming clearer.
Written by Kat Arney
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.