A new study reveals what monkeys see when a part of their brain receives electrical stimulation.
The discovery could help scientists create a prosthetic device to restore vision to the blind based on direct stimulation to certain visual processing areas of the brain.
So, you know how sometimes you stand up too fast or your hit your head, and you see stars? These perceptions – or ‘phosphenes’ – are experienced by people even if their eyes are closed or they’re blind, New Science explains.
Well, a team led by MIT’s Peter Schiller stimulated the areas of the monkey brain that process visual information to figure out what the phosphenes look like to 2 rhesus monkeys named Hank and Malibu.
Turns out, the stars were between 9 to 26 arc minutes (1 arc minute is 1/60th of a degree) in diameter, and New Scientist reports, appeared in a variety of colors, including pink, blue, green, and yellow.
"We want to understand the brain to help the blind," Schiller says. His goal is to pair electrical stimulation of the visual cortex with a small camera, allowing researchers to stimulate the visual cortex with a pattern of activity that translates the information captured by the camera – giving a kind of sight to blind people.
They propose to supply the electrical messages that the brain interprets as an ‘image’ directly to the brain's visual cortex, the Los Angeles Times reports. But first, they’ll need to translate complex visual images into electrical signals that convey the density of information we expect – not only the shapes and colors of objects but also their distance from us.
The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week.
Image by >>V<< via Flickr
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com