Brain Communicates with Natural and AI Macular Degeneration Treatment

Brain Communicates with Natural and AI Macular Degeneration Treatment

As science continues to integrate prosthetics with biological functions, the human body is slowly changing into a combination of natural capability with artificial intelligence (AI) assistance. Up until now these attempts were challenged by the body rejecting such maneuvered fixes but current studies show a symbiotic relationship that is responding with significant results. 

This is particularly effective when it comes to macular degeneration, the blinding eye disease that is growing in numbers. From juvenile cases (Stargardt’s disease which affects 1 in 8,000-10,000 children) to a large cohort of elderly patients over the age of sixty-five struggling with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). 

New research is proving how the brain communicates with natural and AI macular degeneration treatment. This is good news which may help reduce and eventually eliminate optical diseases altogether. 

The Brain Knows

Inserting bionics into the body was once a cumbersome mechanical attempt that always came with the risk of rejection. Over time, small steps have led to big results of many successful prosthetic applications advancing in performance and especially brain to AI communication. 

Stopping macular degeneration through merging a bio-tech relationship has recently shown to be accepted by the brain. 

An Israeli study published in the journal Current Biology (Volume 30, Issue 1, January 6 2020, Pages 176-182) which looked at human-machine interaction included the relationship between an artificial retina and the host brain. 

Prof. Yossi Mandel, head of Bar-Ilan University’s Ophthalmic Science and Engineering Lab and the study’s lead author commented to The Times of Israel, 

“The visual cortex in our brain processes the information from the retina, and we wanted to find out if the brain was able to process and analyze and integrate the information coming both from the prosthetic retina and natural retina, This will enable the implanted person to see, even if part of the information was coming from an artificial chip”  

The results were surprising. Mandel continued, 

“What we found is that the basic processing (abilities) of the visual cortex are preserved, and it is able to combine the artificial and natural signals, just as it does when both signals come naturally, when people have natural eyesight,”

This is brain-machine interfacing

Brain-Machine Interfacing 

Brain-machine interfacing has been seen in other applications such as prosthetic hand and foot control through nerve firing. Photonics Media describes some of the details surrounding how the recent macular degeneration retinal implant study was conducted. 

“The implant is composed of dozens of tiny solar cells and electrodes, developed by professor Daniel Palanker at Stanford University. Patients treated with the implant possess a combination of artificial central vision and normal peripheral vision. The study of the combination of artificial and natural vision may provide a better understanding of how to treat blindness.”

These are pioneering applications which the AMD community is following closely. For artificial and natural processes to co-exist in something as delicate as instantaneously transferring an image from the retina to the brain is enormous. This could mean that as such a bio-tech combination begins to blossom, macular degeneration may not be able to perpetuate through the gene pool as it dies off from retinal replacements. It is also an opportunity to use the healthy tissue still firing peripheral vision to integrate accordingly. 

Using Peripheral Vision

Struggling with AMD means having difficulty maintaining central vision while peripheral vision  remains intact. The process of installing an artificial retina involves relying on the biological viability of the remaining peripheral vision. 

Researchers explained to the Jerusalem Post,

“when there is damage to the photoreceptor layers in the retina, an artificial retina – a device built from tiny electrodes smaller in width than a hair – may be implanted…Activating these electrodes results in electrical stimulation of the remaining retinal cells and results in visual restoration…We have developed a unique projection system that can project invisible light or visible light [green light] to stimulate either the prosthetic device or the normal adjacent [peripheral] retina”

Blinded No More

Macular degeneration is the number one cause of blindness in the western world. Those that have succumbed to blindness as a result of AMD or other macular degenerative diseases may soon get a new lease on sight. It is estimated that as more studies corroborate the meshing of artificial and natural retinal replacement being accepted by the brain, this blindness could be reversed. 

Prof. Mandel touched on the possibility,

“We wanted to see how the brain is able to combine the two kinds of information, because it can provide us insight which is important for improving the restoration of sight in blind patients.” 

The study results will continue to target getting even closer to making macular degeneration related blindness a thing of the past. 

First Account of Post Retinal Implant Surgery

Retinal replacement surgery is much more precise now. In the not so distant past there were cruder attempts at implanting retinal electrodes that communicated with a mini-computer chip embedded in a pair of eyeglasses that also communicated with a device clipped on the user’s belt. 

The American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF) reported on such an account given by Kathy Blake, one of 32 people who participated in a study at the Doheny Eye Institute at the University of Southern California. 

According to the report, 

“Kathy received an artificial retina. First, electrodes are surgically implanted on the surface of the macular region of the retina. A tiny camera mounted on eye glasses sends the light signals to a mini-computer worn on the person’s belt. From there, the signal is passed to the electrodes in the eye. The controlled electrical signal excites the remaining retinal neurons which send impulses via the optic nerve to the brain where it is processed into a visual image.”

Prior to her implant Blake commented,

“The vision that I have now is really nothing. I don’t really see any shapes, or movement or shadows. I really cannot see anything.”

Post-op, Blake responded, 

“After the surgery I was really surprised that I really can’t feel any hardware in my eye at all. There’s a lot of hardware in there and I can’t feel anything, its very comfortable.”

The new research of how the brain is able to directly communicate with an implanted retinal device shows how far the research and technology have come. Soon, a simple bionic adjustment may enable millions of people to finally live a fully functioning visual life.