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Artificial vision system offers groundbreaking results for blindness

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Two years after a team of multi-institution researchers surgically implanted the Intracortical Visual Prosthesis (ICVP) in a patient with blindness, new participants are needed for ongoing studies in the field of artificial vision.

Talk about this ICVP.

The ICVP system is an implant designed to bypass the retina and optic nerves to connect directly to the brain’s visual cortex.

Most notably: It’s the first intracortical visual implant to use a group of fully implanted miniaturized wireless stimulators to explore whether individuals with blindness can utilize the artificial vision provided by this approach, according to IIT.

So who developed this technology?

The technology was developed by a research team at the Illinois Institute of Technology (ITT) led by Philip R. Troyk, a professor of biomedical engineering and executive director of IIT’s Pritzker Institute of Biomedical Science and Engineering.

Other institutions involved in this project included:

Gotcha. Now back to this system … how do these stimulators work?

The implanted, dot-like wire simulator modules communicate image information—captured via a video camera—directly to the brain.

Called wireless floating microelectrode arrays (WFMA), each module contains 18 microelectrodes that obtain their power and digital commands through a wireless link (thus, requiring no wires or connectors to cross a patient’s scalp).

When the WFMAs receive their commands, camera images are communicated to the brain, “creating a crude visual perception of the image” that benefits an individual and enables them to perform visually-guided tasks.

Where are they implanted, exactly?

In the occipital lobe on the back of the head (above the neck).

And who qualifies for this?

The ICVP can only be used by individuals who previously had vision until at least the age of 12 (in order for the visual cortex to sufficiently develop).

Give me an example.

The first patient to have the device implanted in their brain was a 55-year-old man who lost his vision in 2017 due to detached retina surgeries and infection.

When wearing the system’s camera—attached to a pair of glasses that transmit the surrounding area—the patient reported that the images he sees are more “blips on a radar screen.”

And for more complex exercises, an infrared camera setting enables him to locate objects or other people around him. “I don’t see a person. I see dots that tell me there is something there,” the patient stated. “And then you have to use other senses to figure out what it is.”

What’s the expectation for long-term use?

Ideally, researchers expect the brain to learn to interpret the artificial vision information and for “some useful vision perception” to result.

And how does this system compare to similar neurotechnology?

Per IIT, other neurotechnologies focus on neural implants for brain privacy and data concerns.

This implant, on the other hand, is reported to create artificial vision by directly stimulating the visual cortex (bypassing damaged optical pathways in the process).

Gotcha. So what clinical research has been conducted?

IIT and The Chicago Lighthouse launched a phase 1 feasibility study in 2021 to investigate the ICVP’s safety in enabling some light perception in blind individuals.

The study setup: After implant surgery and an estimated one month of recovery, participants are evaluated for 1-3 years; follow-up exams include 2-3 visits for approximately 6 hours (per visit) for the first year and return visits every few months until the end of Year 3.

Is this an ongoing study?

Indeed it is. In fact, the ICVP project has initiated a call for new volunteers to participate in the study. To learn more, visit or email

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