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We’ve long known some of the biological and anatomical reasons for blindness, but the key to replicating sight lies in understanding the electrical impulses that pass from the eye to the brain. Three years ago, neuroscientist Sheila Nirenberg cracked this code.
“It had a huge potential application,” she says. “We could use this to create a prosthetic device for the blind.”
Nirenberg has developed a visor-mounted camera that collects visual information from the world and sends it – in code the brain understands – to genes injected into the eye. Those genes signal the brain when they’re exposed to light. Send the right impulses at the right time, and the brain processes the data as an image.
More than 8 million Americans suffer from blindness. If Nirenberg’s research bears fruit in the coming years, we may…