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Prog Brain Res. 2011;192:3-15. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-53355-5.00001-4.

Building the bionic eye: an emerging reality and opportunity.

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  • 1Department of Ophthalmology, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Once the topic of folklore and science fiction, the notion of restoring vision to the blind is now approaching a tractable reality. Technological advances have inspired numerous multidisciplinary groups worldwide to develop visual neuroprosthetic devices that could potentially provide useful vision and improve the quality of life of profoundly blind individuals. While a variety of approaches and designs are being pursued, they all share a common principle of creating visual percepts through the stimulation of visual neural elements using appropriate patterns of electrical stimulation. Human clinical trials are now well underway and initial results have been met with a balance of excitement and cautious optimism. As remaining technical and surgical challenges continue to be solved and clinical trials move forward, we now enter a phase of development that requires careful consideration of a new set of issues. Establishing appropriate patient selection criteria, methods of evaluating long-term performance and effectiveness, and strategies to rehabilitate implanted patients will all need to be considered in order to achieve optimal outcomes and establish these devices as viable therapeutic options.

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