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Gentle touch and the bionic eye
Date:5/1/2013

Normal vision is essentially a spatial sense that often relies upon touch and movement during and after development, there is often a correlation between how an object looks and how it feels. Moreover, as a child's senses develop, there is cross-referencing between the various senses. Indeed, where the links between the senses are not made, there may be developmental problems or delays. This should be taken into consideration when training new users of visual prosthetics, artificial retinas, or bionic eyes, suggest researchers in Australia.

Writing in the International Journal of Autonomous and Adaptive Communications Systems, a team at Monash University explain that haptic devices, technologies that simulate the feel of an object should be used as early as possible in children fitted with visual prosthetics, and also for older congenitally blind and late-blind people. The haptic device can provide supplementary or redundant information that allows cross-referencing with the visual input from the prosthetic. This, George van Doorn and colleagues suggest will help train the brain more effectively to understand the electrical input it is receiving from the prosthetic.

The input to the brain from any of our senses is ultimately an electrochemical signal, no actual light, sounds, odor molecules or other stimuli enters the brain. During infancy, the brain learns to interpret these different signals. However, the brain can be retrained to "understand" inputs from seemingly odd places. For instance, researchers grafted an electronic retina, not dissimilar to a low-resolution digital camera, to a patient's tongue and then helped the patient learn how to interpret patterns of light hitting the sensor, even though the electrical signals reach the brain from receptors in the tongue.

At the moment, artificial retinas are very low resolution, a small array of a few dozen pixels, whereas a digital camera might have millions of pixels in its
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Contact: Albert Ang
press@inderscience.com
Inderscience Publishers
Source:Eurekalert

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