London: Scientists have developed a new prosthetic device that sends images directly to the brain, a technology they say could be used to help blind humans in less than a decade.
The device, which was developed by a team at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University and tested on animals, takes information from the outside world and decodes it into a pattern that the brain can "read" as an image.
Neuroscientist Sheila Nirenberg, who led the research, explained that the key was converting the data into patterns of electrical activity for the brain to process.
What`s more, Nirenberg said, it could be used to help blind humans in less than a decade, the Daily Mail reported.
She said: "I study how the brain uses patterns of electrical activity to see, to hear, to reach for an object.
"I`ve been starting to use what we`ve learned about these patterns of electricity to develop prosthetic devices."
Prof Nirenberg explained that if a person has a retinal disease, there`s very little that can be done for them, with drug treatments only effective on a small number of sufferers.
There are prosthetic devices, but they only allow patients to see simple images, mainly just outlines.
But the new device is something "that could make a difference", Prof Nirenberg explained at a seminar in San Diego recently.
She told the audience that the retina contains circuits that process images, but that these circuits can die from disease.
The device she`s pioneered "mimics the action of the front end circuitry of the retina", enabling images to be fired to the brain once more.
So far it`s only been tested on mice, but when asked if it could be adapted for humans in 10 years, she replied: "I`m hoping less."