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New Study Revolutionizes Brain Implant Concept for Sight Restoration

Feb 22, 2017 04:50 AM EST
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Creating brain implants that could restore human senses has been problematic ever since the conception of the idea. But now, a team of scientists may have found a way to bypass this problem -- at least when it comes to sight.

According to Technology Review, scientists from Harvard will be testing monkeys with a new implant that can potentially restore sight. The study is led by Bernard Casse, a researcher at the PARC research institute that's owned by the company Xerox.

Previous brain implant experiments have proven problematic because the scar tissues, where the electrodes are placed, heal. This eliminates the usefulness of the implant.

But the team appears to have circumvented the problem by directly placing data into the brain, piercing through the skull and on the brain's surface. They then release magnetic fields to generate electrical activity in particular locations in the brain tissue.

If successful, the technology should be able to tickle the brain's visual cortex, good enough to produce images that are normally received by the eyes. This is done by "replicating" the sensation of sight without the sensory organ.

The program, which began in 2014, was sponsored by a multi-million dollar grant under the BRAIN initiative of the former Obama administration. Researchers have demonstrated that these systems should be able to do daily, menial tasks such as brushing teeth or eating.

Technology Review says that if the new technology pushes through, practicality and cost-efficiency of these brain-controlled computers should also be taken into consideration.

This kind of technology has its setbacks, too. For instance, controlling a computer is harder. Once its electronic system stops working, the entire network freezes too.

Also, issues regarding brain protection has also been raised, saying that guards should be placed so that scar tissues for these implants would not harm the organ.

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