Chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston
A visual cortical prosthesis (VCP) has long been proposed as a strategy for restoring useful vision to the blind, under the assumption that visual percepts of small spots of light produced with electrical stimulation of visual cortex (phosphenes) will combine into coherent percepts of visual forms, like pixels on a video screen. We tested an alternative strategy in which shapes were traced on the surface of visual cortex by stimulating electrodes in dynamic sequence. In both sighted and blind participants, dynamic stimulation enabled accurate recognition of letter shapes predicted by the brain’s spatial map of the visual world. Forms were presented and recognized rapidly by blind participants, up to 86 forms per minute. These findings demonstrate that a brain prosthetic can produce coherent percepts of visual forms.