Project aims to restore vision through cortical stimulation

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French research centre Leti has joined a DARPA funded project to develop an implantable neural interface system that restores vision by stimulating the visual cortex.

Scientists from Leti and Clinatec – Leti’s biomedical research centre – are part of a consortium lead by the Paris based Vision Institute, a leading eye disease research centre, as well as part of the Seeing and Hearing Foundation (FVE), which was awarded the DARPA grant.

The project, called CorticalSight, is one of six selected by DARPA to participate in its Neural Engineering System Design programme. CorticalSight will apply optogenetics techniques to enable communication between neurons in the visual cortex and a camera-based, high-definition artificial retina worn over the eyes.

Leti will lead the development of the active implantable medical device that will interface with the visual cortex, as well as the hermetic packaging and RF links. The implant will enable visual cortex optical-stimulation patterns and integrate the underlying control electronics within what it says will be a minimally invasive cortical implant.

To overcome the challenge of processing the vast amount of information collected by the retina, FVE plans to develop a neuromorphic, event-based camera system that will only capture elements of the scene that change substantially from frame to frame. This information would be sent from the camera to an external device that transforms the images into stimulation patterns that are communicated wirelessly to a high-density micro-LED stimulator array for the visual cortex.

Partners in the CorticalSight project include Chronocam, Gensight, Stanford University, Inscopix and the Friedrich Miescher Institute.