A 57-year-old woman, who went blind 16 years ago, started drawing simple shapes and letters afterwards. Brain transplant surgery installed in the visual cortex. It is an experimental and unpublished intervention made by a team Biomedical Neuroengineering at Miguel Hernandez University (UMH) from Elche, Spain.
The intervention, which led to the highest conception known to date in this type of disease, was led by cell biologist Eduardo Fernandez Joffre, who and his team had already achieved the first successful test in primates in December 2020.
The implant, which is placed in the visual cortex, consists of Microelectrodes within the cortex, which “safely” stimulate the area of the brain that provides eye functions. The device measures 4 mm on one side with 1.5 mm electrodes. “This is the first time a brain transplant of this type has been performed on a blind person, and the results are very encouraging for the development of an optical neurosurgery prosthesis,” Fernandez-Joffre celebrated.
The Scientific Information and News Service (SINC) researcher noted that the implant could help blind people or people with residual low vision improve their mobility, and in an even more ambitious way, to perceive and orient themselves toward their environment. on him. “There are still many problems to be solved and It is very important to move forward little by little and not create false expectationsFernandez Joffre explained.
How was the first brain transplantation for blind people reached?
The experiment lasted six months and involved various tests on the participant to monitor learning of the visual cortex and possible changes, among them creating video games to train the volunteer, with a different version of the classic Pac-Man game.
A full stimulation system is also included An artificial retina that mimics the functioning of the human vision systemThey are located inside ordinary glasses, and they capture the visual field in front of them, and are transformed into groups of enhanced electrical impulses to stimulate neurons in the visual cortex.
Among the main conclusions of the study, it was highlighted that the implant does not affect the function of the cerebral cortex or the function of neurons close to it, and that It is possible that even after many years of complete blindness, the human brain is still able to process visual information.
Finally, Fernandez-Joffre noted that the development of neural alternatives to the visual brain is a “necessity for the future,” given the lack of useful assistive therapies or devices for many who are blind.
currently, The research team is recruiting new blind volunteers to participate in these experiments And in future studies, they hope to use a more complex image coding system capable of stimulating more electrodes simultaneously to reproduce more complex optical images.