My mother called me in Connecticut one morning in the late 1990s to tell me she was scared because when she looked in the mirror that morning she couldn’t see her face. In the center of her vision was a blurry dark mass. That was the beginning of her descent into a case of fast-progressing wet macular degeneration. During the last ten years of her life, thanks to then state-of-the-art medical intervention, the progress of the disease was slowed, but it never halted. While she still had reasonably good peripheral vision for the rest of her life — she could play cards just fine — my mother would never again be able to look directly at and recognize her friends or family. My mom could have been an ideal candidate for the bionic eye brain vision cortex implant technology in development by the Monash Vision Group (MVG) of Melbourne’s Monash University.
We have previously written about other vision-restoring technologies under development including a LCD replacement lens, a retina implant, a peripheral vision display that can help people with macular degeneration, and carbon nanotubes implanted in the retina. MVG’s technology combines glasses with a digital camera in front and a dual purpose module on the side frame that processes the digital input from the camera and wirelessly transmits impulses to an array of implants placed directly on the visual cortex.
The MVG bionic eye technology is not suitable for people who have been blind from birth because the brain’s visual cortex never “learned” how to interpret incoming visual signals, a process that must start at a very early age or it will not develop. However, the previously sighted, such as people with glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetes-related retinal blindness, and other neuro-ophthalmic disorders and diseases are more likely to benefit from the MVG bionic eye technology because their visual cortices have already been “trained” to make sense of impulses from visual stimuli.
The Monash Vision Group is preparing for clinical trials, with no announced release dates, but when we add this developing Heath Tech to efforts of other teams and institutions around the world, we have reason to hope for a bright future for those suffering from visual impairment from a variety of causes.