New Extraordinary Brain Implant Allows Blind People to Read Letters

It works by sending short electric bursts in the form of letters.

What if we could give the vision back to the blind? There is a new device that sends electrical impulses to the part of the brain involved in visual processing, and this process actually allows the blind to` see ‘ the letters, reported Nature Magazine.

There is however a trick. It only works on people who were sighted before they go blind.These people tend to have damage to the eyes or optic nerves. However, their visual cortex remains intact.

In these cases, using a device to electrically stimulate different parts of the visual cortex could give a recognizable image to the brain. The problem is that this image is often shapeless.

A team of scientists from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston has developed a brain implant that allows blind and sighted participants to “see” the shape of the letters.

New Extraordinary Brain Implant Allows Blind People to Read Letters

The device works by skipping the eye and relaying visual information from a camera directly to the electrodes implanted in the brain.

The new technique sends short bursts of electricity imitating the shape of letters and has proven to be very effective. In tests on real people who had lost their sight, two of them identified more than 80% of the letters “sent”.

What the researchers created is nevertheless remarkable: the participants were able to “see” the contours of the shapes, thanks to complex sequences of electrical impulses sent to their brains.

New Extraordinary Brain Implant Allows Blind People to Read Letters

“When we used electrical stimulation to dynamically trace letters directly to patients’ brains, they were able to” see “the expected letter shapes and could correctly identify different letters,” said Daniel Yoshor, lead author at Baylor College of Houston Medicine.

“They described seeing bright spots or lines forming the letters, like Skywriting” .Such a device could have a major impact on the lives of the blind and visually impaired.

“The ability to detect the shape of a family member or allow more independent navigation would be a wonderful step for many blind patients,” Yoshor told Live Science.

But the development of the device is still in its early stages, as the brain is an extremely complex organ.

Researchers believe that the same method could also be used to “show” objects, giving a sense of sight back to those who need it most.