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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2010 Feb;51(2):1223-33. doi: 10.1167/iovs.09-3746. Epub 2009 Sep 9.

Spatiotemporal interactions in retinal prosthesis subjects.

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Neuroscience Graduate Program, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90033, USA.



Vision loss due to retinitis pigmentosa affects an estimated 15 million people worldwide. Through collaboration between Second Sight Medical Products, Inc., and the Doheny Eye Institute, six blind human subjects underwent implantation with epiretinal 4 x 4 electrode arrays designed to directly stimulate the remaining cells of the retina, with the goal of restoring functional vision by applying spatiotemporal patterns of stimulation. To better understand spatiotemporal interactions between electrodes during synchronous and asynchronous stimulation, the authors investigated how percepts changed as a function of pulse timing across the electrodes.


Pulse trains (20, 40, 80, and 160 Hz) were presented on groups of electrodes with 800, 1600, or 2400 microm center-to-center separation. Stimulation was either synchronous (pulses were presented simultaneously across electrodes) or asynchronous (pulses were phase shifted). Using a same-different discrimination task, the authors were able to evaluate how the perceptual quality of the stimuli changed as a function of phase shifts across multiple electrodes.


Even after controlling for electric field interactions, subjects could discriminate between spatiotemporal pulse train patterns based on differences of phase across electrodes as small as 3 ms. These findings suggest that the quality of the percept is affected not only by electric field interactions but also by spatiotemporal interactions at the neural level.


During multielectrode stimulation, interactions between electrodes have a significant influence on the quality of the percept. Understanding how these spatiotemporal interactions at the neural level influence percepts during multielectrode stimulation is fundamental to the successful design of a retinal prosthesis.

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