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Neuron-sized brain chip offers hope for blind people

A group of researchers from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, University of Freiburg and the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience have created an exceptionally small implant, with electrodes the size of a single neuron, aimed at restoring sight for individuals who are blind.

The concept of vision implants originated in the 1990s, primarily targeting patients with eye damage but with an active visual cortex capable of receiving signals.

Despite the potential benefits, previous methods faced limitations due to the large size of electrodes and issues with metal corrosion. The research team claims to have effectively tackled both challenges. These vision implants consist of electrodes that transmit signals to the brain, akin to how pixels form an image on a screen.

By innovating microscopic electrodes, the team managed to incorporate a greater quantity onto a single implant. Consequently, this advancement allows for heightened brain stimulation, resulting in a more intricate visual representation for the recipient. The level of detail is pivotal because the images generated from brain signals are not as clear as those perceived by individuals with full vision.

The researchers assert that the chosen material combination ensures both durability and functionality. Maria Asplund, the project leader and study co-author, said, “We have demonstrated the feasibility of producing electrodes as small as neurons and maintaining their functionality within the brain for extended periods.”

She added, “Our next endeavor is to design an implant capable of accommodating connections for thousands of electrodes.”