Technology is amazing. Within the last couple years alone, it has allowed human beings to advance in ways that, at one time, was only thought possible in science fiction. Virtual reality is becoming a household thing and 3D printing is changing lives. Now, technology is being tested to change a person’s life entirely. In an upcoming study, Harvard Medical School is developing a brain implant that may reverse the effects of blindness long term.
Sometime next month, Harvard will begin testing the implant on primates. Instead of protruding into the brain, the new implant will rest right underneath the skull and sit on the brain’s surface. Tiny coils on the underside of the implant will generate magnetic fields to initiate activity in different parts of the brain. Obviously, in this particular experiment, the researchers are focused on the effects this will have on the visual cortex of the brain. They are hoping the surge of electricity from the implant will re-create the actions that cause vision. In the end, the Harvard researchers are hoping to be able to turn signals from a camera into brain activity. If successful, the primates will be able to navigate a maze just by perceiving light, dark, and shapes. They will also be testing an implant that is embedded in the brain. Below, is a video that shows a brain implant giving a paralyzed monkey the ability to walk!
Unfortunately, this is an experiment that will not be finished anytime soon. The three-year project is being funded by a movement, the BRAIN initiative, put into action by President Obama. The initiative was put in place strictly for scientists to experiment in an attempt to better understand the human brain. When it comes to these sort of implants. they usually fail. The electrodes the implants are trying to pass through the various parts of the brain stop working when scar tissue builds around the implant. Since this new type of implant rests on top of the brain, scar tissue won’t build up and erode these connections.
This implant could, not only, fix blindness in the long term, but could also be extremely useful for other sorts of disabilities.