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Computational neuroscience to develop a visual prosthesis that would restore vision

The interdisciplinary project Hyperstim aims to progress in the creation of a visual prosthesis that ignores the structure of the eye and works on the brain’s visual cortex, where images are finally formed.


Imatge inicial

The idea of obtaining a visual implant that in 10 years will allow patients who have lost their sight to see is undoubtedly highly attractive to millions of people. According to data from the European Blind Union (EBU), it is estimated that there are more than 30 million blind and visually impaired people in Europe. In other words, an average of one in thirty Europeans experiences vision loss.

The project Hyperstim (High Dimensional Electrical Stimulation for Visual Prosthesis) fuses private enterprise and academia to achieve a fundamental breakthrough in the spatial resolution of electrical brain stimulation to restore vision. It is thus expected to obtain a resolution of at least 20 times the number of electrodes that are currently physically present in prostheses under study.

The implant does not seek to intervene in or replace any part of the eye, but to go directly to the cerebral cortex where, in a sighted person, the signals produced by the light are processed and the images that we see are formed, giving rise to perception. Attempts have been made to make implants that emulate the retina, which is known as a silicon retina. But the cells of the retina are so close together that for the time being there is no electrode arrangement compact enough to optimally stimulate the optic nerve.

The Hyperstim consortium is made up of the Belgian company Restoring Vision (ReVision), the Natural Science Research Centre (TTK) in Hungary, the Computational Neuroscience Research Group (CNS) of the UPF Center for Brain and Cognition (CBC) and, project coordinator, the Neurosciences Group of the Catholic University of Leuven (KU Leuven). The idea is that there should be an increase in orders of magnitude in the perceived resolution of current visual prostheses.

“The project is originally devised to restore functional vision to people who have lost their sight, whose primary and higher visual cortex is developed"

The prosthesis that ReVision is developing and which it hopes to have finished in ten years’ time, consists of glasses that collect the visual information and send it in the form of electrical stimuli to an implant with more than a thousand microelectrodes inserted in the visual cortex, at the rear of the brain, whose design and construction surpasses the existing technology.

El projecte espera aconseguir una resolució molt més gran que la que s'aconsegueix amb els mètodes existents (imatge de referència informativa). Font: ReVision Implant
The project hopes to achieve a much higher resolution than that achieved with existing methods (informative reference image). Source: ReVision Implant

But improving and increasing the number of electrodes is only part of the solution. “The stimulation patterns need to be more complex, in other words, we need to be able to use the electrodes more efficiently by applying sophisticated stimulation protocols, studying their relationship with the information transmitted through the layers of the visual cortex”, explains the researcher Juan M. Fuentes of the UPF Computational Neuroscience Research Group (CNS). The researcher has participated in the Hyperstim project, coordinated by Gustavo Deco, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at UPF.

The great diversity of possible stimulation patterns that this company’s implant allows, and is necessary if we want to create a prosthesis that restores functional vision, requires ​​a research methodology that integrates state-of-the-art neuroscience models and methods at each spatial scale: from individual neurons to the entire brain. “Using the computational cluster of the UPF Center for Brain and Cognition (CBC), we will implement detailed simulations of the visual cortex and the complex interconnections and with this we will study in silico which varieties of stimulation patterns effectively induce sufficient neural activations in higher areas of the visual cortex, measuring the information transmitted, forming a cyclic optimization process that involves all the entities of the project”, Juan M. Fuentes continues.

The electrical signals received are converted into stimuli that pass through the various layers of the visual cortex. “The project is originally designed to restore functional vision to people who have lost their sight, whose primary and higher visual cortex is developed”, he concludes.

Hyperstim is funded with €2 million from the European Commission’s Horizon Europe programme through the European Innovation Council. The project began in November of this year and will run until October 2026.



SDG - Sustainable Development Goals:

03. Good health and well-being
Els ODS a la UPF


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