Visual Prosthesis

Schiller PH; Tehovnik EJ
Perception, in press

There are more than 40 million blind individuals in the world whose plight would be greatly ameliorated by creating a visual prosthetic. We begin by outlining the basic operational characteristics of the visual system as this knowledge is essential for producing a prosthetic device based on electrical stimulation through arrays of implanted electrodes. We then list a series of tenets that we believe need to be followed in this effort. Central among these is our belief that the initial research in this area, which is in its infancy, should first be carried out in animals. We suggest that implantation of area V1 holds high promise as the area is of a large volume and can therefore accommodate extensive electrode arrays. We then proceed to consider coding operations that can effectively convert visual images viewed by a camera to stimulate electrode arrays to yield visual impressions that can provide shape, motion and depth information. We advocate experimental work that mimics electrical stimulation effects non-invasively in sighted human subjects using a camera from which visual images are converted into displays on a monitor akin to those created by electrical stimulation.

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(N.B. -- The final version of this manuscript appears in Perception, vol 37, pp. 1529-59)

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