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Prog Brain Res. 2009;175:347-75. doi: 10.1016/S0079-6123(09)17524-6.

Microstimulation of visual cortex to restore vision.

Author information

  • 1Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA. tehovnik@mit.edu

Abstract

This review argues that one reason why a functional visuo-cortical prosthetic device has not been developed to restore even minimal vision to blind individuals is because there is no animal model to guide the design and development of such a device. Over the past 8 years we have been conducting electrical microstimulation experiments on alert behaving monkeys with the aim of better understanding how electrical stimulation of the striate cortex (area V1) affects oculo- and skeleto-motor behaviors. Based on this work and upon review of the literature, we arrive at several conclusions: (1) As with the development of the cochlear implant, the development of a visuo-cortical prosthesis can be accelerated by using animals to test the perceptual effects of microstimulating V1 in intact and blind monkeys. (2) Although a saccade-based paradigm is very convenient for studying the effectiveness of delivering stimulation to V1 to elicit saccadic eye movements, it is less ideal for probing the volitional state of monkeys, as they perceive electrically induced phosphenes. (3) Electrical stimulation of V1 can delay visually guided saccades generated to a punctate target positioned in the receptive field of the stimulated neurons. We call the region of visual space affected by the stimulation a delay field. The study of delay fields has proven to be an efficient way to study the size and shape of phosphenes generated by stimulation of macaque V1. (4) An alternative approach to ascertain what monkeys see during electrical stimulation of V1 is to have them signal the detection of current with a lever press. Monkeys can readily detect currents of 1-2 microA delivered to V1. In order to evoke featured phosphenes currents of under 5 microA will be necessary. (5) Partially lesioning the retinae of monkeys is superior to completely lesioning the retinae when determining how blindness affects phosphene induction. We finish by proposing a future experimental paradigm designed to determine what monkeys see when stimulation is delivered to V1, by assessing how electrical fields generated through multiple electrodes interact for the production of phosphenes, and by depicting a V1 circuit that could mediate electrically induced phosphenes.

PMID:
19660667
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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