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Blind people can 'see' letters thanks to a scientific breakthrough

The study found a way to bypass damaged eyes

Carla Challis
Commerce Partnerships Editor
May 15, 2020
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Scientists in the USA has created a way for blind people to 'see' - thanks to pioneering new implants. The development creates 'sights' for blind people, bypassing damaged eyes and writing letters onto the brain. This technique uses brain implants to deliver a sequence of electrical signals to the brain - blind participants were able to 'see' letters more clearly than previous studies have managed. And it's hoped that this method could, in future, restore some parts of vision for those with damaged eyes or damaged optic nerves.

eyes© Joel Staveley on Unsplash

The new method traces letters onto the brain

The new approach, outlined in journal Cell, is likened to writing in the sky, as it traces shapes onto the visual cortex, the back of the brain that receives and processes visual information. Researchers said their inspiration was the idea of "tracing a letter in the palm of someone’s hand." During the study, blind participants were able to reproduce letter-like shapes that corresponded to the sequences they were shown. The researchers have so far tested simple shapes, like letters C and W, but they believe outlines of objects like houses or cars could be traced using the same method.

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Latest figures from the NHS show there are almost 2 million people living with sight loss in the UK, with around 360,000 of those are registered blind or partially sighted. The RNIB say that everyday, 250 people begin to lose their sight, and the five leading causes are glaucoma, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, diabetes and refractive error (blurred vision).

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