[Cyborg] Camera to brain blindness treatment

Kim Helberg plastbox at hotmail.com
Thu Jan 19 07:11:54 UTC 2012

Just my two cents here. I vaguely remember reading about a study where they used an fMRI to scan the visual cortex of both human and animal subjects. In the study, they found that the pattern of activity visually reflected what the subject was looking at (mirrored and upside down like in the back of a camera, eg. the image that hits the retina) to such a degree that they could distinguish shapes.

I also remember reading about a study where a pneumatic, plastic visual-to-tactile sensory substitution device was worn inside an fMRI machine to see which parts of the brain were stimulated. Turns out, the visual cortex lights up in response to visual stimuli from the device much as it would when the same stimuli was delivered through ordinary eyes.

Can't remember the links atm. and don't have the time to look for it right now, but it would seem to me that visual stimuli through the retina has every chance of restoring actual sight. As for the benefit for the congenitally blind.. Just my personal laymans opinion here, but of course they aren't going to have sight of any value straight away. As in the research of Bach-y-Rita they managed to give subjects a working sense of sight through sensory substitution, but they claimed it lacked "emotional content". Well, duh! I say, wear it constantly for a year or two as the tool it is, and you'd build emotional content. Wearing it while eating the food you love or being intimate with your partner should allow the brain to make said connections, specially since the users of the feelSpace-project reported their extra sense being added to their memories and their dreams after a few weeks of constant use.


Date: Wed, 18 Jan 2012 10:27:32 -0500
From: mrericboyd at yahoo.com
To: cyborg at lists.noisebridge.net
Subject: Re: [Cyborg] Camera to brain blindness treatment


    Wow, moving right along!  The bits are coming for your brain!


    I wonder how they actually know what the brain sees?  I mean, she
    presents these mock up images of what the brain sees under each
    treatment option, but it's not so obvious to me how they actually
    know that.  Problem of consciousness and all that.


    I also know that while the retina does do some encoding of the
    signal, it doesn't reach the level she talks about at the beginning
    (this is an image of a baby), it's more like edge detection, motion
    detection, contrast & color processing, and other low-level
    tasks.  Which is why it's easily to duplicate with a chip: it
    doesn't depend on any knowledge stored in the brain, it's very
    algorithmic, and everyones retina implements the same thing.  The
    visual part of the brain (near the back, at the other end of the
    optic nerve) actually does most of the heavy lifting in terms of
    pattern recognition - and it's a much harder thing to model, since
    it does depend on your knowledge of "trees", "cats", etc... she also
    fails to mention that people born blind probably won't benefit much
    from this treatment, since they never developed the visual cortex
    properly.  Getting signals to it would be only the first stage in a
    much more elaborate treatment. 


    So yeah, in the end, I'm wondering - what did they actually do with
    the animals (or did they test with humans?) to verify their work? 
    Did they do object recognition tests?  Or what?


    I found some links, but don't have time to read them today:




    Maybe someone can read more and chime in with a less fluffy version
    of her presentation?




    On 1/18/12 9:19 AM, Alan Majer wrote:
        Interesting TED video on taping the optic nerve to send
          camera info directly to the brain:
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