Cortical prostheses are a subgroup of visual neuroprostheses capable of evoking visual percepts in profoundly blind people through direct electrical stimulation of the occipital cortex. This approach may be the only treatment available for blindness caused by glaucoma, end-stage retinal degenerations, optic atrophy or trauma to the retina and/or optic nerves. However, there are still a relevant number of open questions and more experiments should be done to achieve the clinical goals envisioned by this new technology.
We are now facing the challenge of creating a cortical visual neuroprosthesis, based on intracortical microelectrodes, which could allow to provide a limited but useful visual sense to profoundly blind. We will introduce preliminary results of electrical stimulation of human visual areas in blind subjects and review some of the principles and difficulties related to the development of a cortical visual neuroprosthesis for the blind. Furthermore, we will emphasize the role of neural plasticity in order to achieve the desired results. Finally, we will discuss some of the exciting opportunities and challenges that lie in this intersection of neuroscience research, biomedical engineering, neuro-ophthalmology and neurosurgery.
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