DLN: Towards the development of a Cortical Visual Neuroprosthesis for the blind: Challenges and future prospects
Cortical prostheses are a subgroup of visual neuroprostheses capable of evoking visual percepts in profoundly blind people through direct electrical stimulation of the occipital cortex. This approach may be the only treatment available for blindness caused by glaucoma, end-stage retinal degenerations, optic atrophy or trauma to the retina and/or optic nerves. However, there are still a relevant number of open questions and more experiments should be done to achieve the clinical goals envisioned by this new technology.
We are now facing the challenge of creating a cortical visual neuroprosthesis, based on intracortical microelectrodes, which could allow to provide a limited but useful visual sense to profoundly blind. We will introduce preliminary results of electrical stimulation of human visual areas in blind subjects and review some of the principles and difficulties related to the development of a cortical visual neuroprosthesis for the blind. Furthermore, we will emphasize the role of neural plasticity in order to achieve the desired results. Finally, we will discuss some of the exciting opportunities and challenges that lie in this intersection of neuroscience research, biomedical engineering, neuro-ophthalmology and neurosurgery.
Dr. Fernandez received a M.D. degree from the University of Alicante (1986) and a Ph.D. in Neuroscience in 1990. He is currently Professor and Chairman of the Department of Histology and Anatomy of the University Miguel Hernández (Spain), Director of the Neural Engineering Group of the Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red (CIBER) in the subject area of Bioengineering, Biomaterials and Nanomedicine (CIBER-BBN, Spain), and Adjunct Professor at John Moran Eye Center (University of Utah, USA). He is a qualified MD who combines biomedicine (molecular and cellular biology, biochemistry, anatomy, physiology and regenerative medicine) with the physical sciences and engineering to improve neural interfaces. He is also trying to better understand brain plasticity in blind subjects and working in the development of new therapeutic approaches for retinal degenerative diseases. In the latest years he has been coordinating several National and International projects to demonstrate the feasibility of a visual neuroprosthesis based on intracortical microelectrodes as a means through which a limited but useful sense of vision could be restored to profoundly blind.
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