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J Neuroeng Rehabil. 2011 Aug 19;8:44. doi: 10.1186/1743-0003-8-44.

Simulation of epiretinal prostheses - evaluation of geometrical factors affecting stimulation thresholds.

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Microsystems Laboratory (LMIS4), Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Lausanne 1015, Switzerland.



An accurate understanding of the electrical interaction between retinal prostheses and retinal tissue is important to design effective devices. Previous studies have used modelling approaches to simulate electric fields generated by epiretinal prostheses in saline and to simulate retinal ganglion cell (RGC) activation using passive or/and active biophysical models of the retina. These models have limited scope for studying an implanted human retinal prosthesis as they often do not account for real geometry and composition of the prosthesis-retina interface. This interface consists of real dimensions and location of stimulation and ground electrodes that are separated by the retinal tissue and surrounded by physiological fluids.


In this study, we combined the prosthesis-retina interface elements into a framework to evaluate the geometrical factors affecting stimulation thresholds for epiretinal prostheses used in clinical human trials, as described by Balthasar et al. in their Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science (IOVS) paper published in 2008 using the Argus I epiretinal implants. Finite element method (FEM) based computations were used to estimate threshold currents based on a threshold criterion employing a passive electric model of the retina.


Threshold currents and impedances were estimated for different electrode-retina distances. The profiles and the values for thresholds and impedances obtained from our simulation framework are within the range of measured values in the only elaborate published clinical trial until now using Argus I epiretinal implants. An estimation of resolution for the electrodes used in these trials was provided. Our results reiterate the importance of close proximity between electrodes and retina for safe and efficient retinal stimulation.


The validation of our simulation framework being relevant for epiretinal prosthesis research is derived from the good agreement of the computed trends and values of the current study with measurements demonstrated in existing clinical trials on humans (Argus I). The proposed simulation framework could be used to generate the relationship between threshold and impedance for any electrode geometry and consequently be an effective tool for design engineers, surgeons and electrophysiologists.

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