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May 3, 2000

Optical Prosthesis: Visions of the Future

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JAMA. 2000;283(17):2297. doi:10.1001/jama.283.17.2297-JMS0503-3-1

Since antiquity, people have dreamed of restoring vision to the blind. Only recently, however, with the development of optical prostheses, has this prospect become a foreseeable reality. Early studies have demonstrated that direct electrical stimulation to neurons of the visual system will cause a subject to perceive points of light (phosphenes).1 This observation spurred investigation into the use of electrical stimulation to overcome visual loss. Current approaches to optical prosthesis involve stimulation of nerves at either the retina or the visual cortex.2 While both approaches are theoretically feasible, retinal prostheses have the advantage of being far less invasive and are the focus of this essay.