Welcome to the home page of the LGN Visual Prosthesis Project.
¤ The fundamental idea we are pursuing is to provide restoration of sight to the blind. We hope to accomplish this by implanting multi-wire electrodes in the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN), the part of the thalamus that relays signals from the retina in the eye to the primary visual cortex at the rear of the head. In leading causes of blindness, the eye ceases working as a light-sensitive organ, but the remainder of the visual system is largely intact. By sending signals from an external man-made sensor such as a digital camera into the brain through carefully implanted electrodes in the LGN, we hope to provide a crude approximation to normal vision and restoration of sight to the blind.
It is important to understand that we do not anticipate restoring vision that is in any way close to normal. Our best guess is that a visual prosthesis will provide the patient with an improvement in their quality of life, being able to navigate more easily through familiar and perhaps unfamiliar surroundings. We hope that it will allow the patient to distinguish and identify simple objects, perhaps even help recognize people. But, it is important to understand that these hopes are some time to come. There is a tremendous amount of work to be done before we have even the crudest initial experimental device temporarily implanted in a human.
¤ We have published a scientific paper describing our first high-profile results:
J. S. Pezaris and R. C. Reid, "Demonstration of artificial visual percepts generated through thalamic microstimulation," Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 104(18):7670-7675, May 1, 2007 [PDF]
¤ Here are a few selected examples of the press coverage on the paper:
¤ The following illustration depicts a schematized version of an initial device
and shows the basic elements of the design.
¤ The first of two small movies accompanying the article and press coverage helps understand what the animals are doing in this experiment.
¤ The second of the two movies helps us understand what prosthetic vision might appear like to the patient. This could be called an artist's rendition of the experience. There are numerous assumptions that underly the simulation, many of which are likely incorrect; this movie should serve only as a guide.
¤ We have published a second scientific paper showing progress on the design parameters of a device:
J. S. Pezaris and R. C. Reid, "Simulations of electrode placement for a thalamic visual prosthesis," IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, 56(1):172-178, 2009 [PDF]
¤ We have published a scientific paper discussing possible modes of bringing signals into the brain, specifically using a thalmic visual prosthesis as an example of the larger field of computer-to-brain interfaces:
J. S. Pezaris and E. E. Eskandar, "Getting signals into the brain: Visual prosthetics through thalamic microstimulation," Neurosurgical Focus, 27(1):E6 2009 [PDF]
¤ Recently, there has been an effort to simulate how prosthetic vision will appear to the eventual recipient of an implant by using virtual reality technologies. We developed a simulation and used it to assess the visual acuity that would be available using a suite of different designs:
B. Bourkiza, M. Vurro, A. Jeffries, and J. S. Pezaris, "Visual Acuity of Simulated Thalamic Visual Prostheses in Normally Sighted Humans," PLOS ONE, 10.1371/journal.pone.0073592
¤ Continuing in that line of research, we adapted the simulation so that it could be used to test reading ability. Reading is one of the standard activities of daily living, and lends itself to easy measurement and analysis, as is detailed in our most recent publication:
M. Vurro, A. M. Crowell, and J. S. Pezaris, "Simulation of thalamic prosthetic vision: reading accuracy, speed, and acuity in sighted humans," Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00816
¤ Finally, there is a longer video that describes the current state of our research. If the movie does not play, it can be downloaded as a WMV file by clicking here.
¤ Support our work. We rely on donations from individuals and foundations to support our important research to restore sight to the blind. If you are interested in making a tax-deductible gift, please visit https://secure.massgeneral.org to make an on-line donation. On that page, under Designation you must select Other and type Pezaris Lab Research Fund in order for the donation to be correctly targeted. Thank you.