While other researchers are trying to develop artificial retinas that feed visual signals into existing sensory pathways, the team behind the new work, from the Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, is exploring the possibility of bypassing those routes all together.
This could be vital for those whose retinas are unable to receive retinal stimulation.
The researchers used electrodes to stimulate the brains of three patients who were already undergoing brian surgery to treat epilepsy. All three were able to detect bright spots of light, called phosphenes, when certain regions of their brains were stimulated.
And, in seven out of eight trials, the patients were able to correctly see the orientation of a phosphene—in one of two orientations, depending on the stimulation they received.