the Artificial Retina Works
Normal vision begins
when light enters and moves through the eye to strike specialized
photoreceptor (light-receiving) cells in the retina called rods
and cones. These cells convert light signals to electric impulses
that are sent to the optic nerve and the brain. Retinal diseases
like age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa
destroy vision by annihilating these cells.
With the artificial retina
device, a miniature camera mounted in eyeglasses captures images
and wirelessly sends the information to a microprocessor (worn on
a belt) that converts the data to an electronic signal and transmits
it to a receiver on the eye. The receiver sends the signals through
a tiny, thin cable to the microelectrode array, stimulating it to
emit pulses. The artificial retina device thus bypasses defunct
photoreceptor cells and transmits electrical signals directly to
the retina’s remaining viable cells. The pulses travel to
the optic nerve and, ultimately, to the brain, which perceives patterns
of light and dark spots corresponding to the electrodes stimulated.
Patients learn to interpret these visual patterns.