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Concept: Prosthetics


Retinal prosthesis technologies require that the visual system downstream of the retinal circuitry be capable of transmitting and elaborating visual signals. We studied the capability of plastic remodeling in late blind subjects implanted with the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis with psychophysics and functional MRI (fMRI). After surgery, six out of seven retinitis pigmentosa (RP) blind subjects were able to detect high-contrast stimuli using the prosthetic implant. However, direction discrimination to contrast modulated stimuli remained at chance level in all of them. No subject showed any improvement of contrast sensitivity in either eye when not using the Argus II. Before the implant, the Blood Oxygenation Level Dependent (BOLD) activity in V1 and the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) was very weak or absent. Surprisingly, after prolonged use of Argus II, BOLD responses to visual input were enhanced. This is, to our knowledge, the first study tracking the neural changes of visual areas in patients after retinal implant, revealing a capacity to respond to restored visual input even after years of deprivation.

Concepts: Retina, Visual perception, Visual system, Prosthetics, Retinitis pigmentosa, Thalamus, Lateral geniculate nucleus, Optic nerve


The restoration of light response with complex spatiotemporal features in retinal degenerative diseases towards retinal prosthesis has proven to be a considerable challenge over the past decades. Herein, inspired by the structure and function of photoreceptors in retinas, we develop artificial photoreceptors based on gold nanoparticle-decorated titania nanowire arrays, for restoration of visual responses in the blind mice with degenerated photoreceptors. Green, blue and near UV light responses in the retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) are restored with a spatial resolution better than 100 µm. ON responses in RGCs are blocked by glutamatergic antagonists, suggesting functional preservation of the remaining retinal circuits. Moreover, neurons in the primary visual cortex respond to light after subretinal implant of nanowire arrays. Improvement in pupillary light reflex suggests the behavioral recovery of light sensitivity. Our study will shed light on the development of a new generation of optoelectronic toolkits for subretinal prosthetic devices.

Concepts: Nervous system, Brain, Retina, Eye, Photoreceptor cell, Visual perception, Prosthetics, Artificial organ


A major challenge since the invention of implantable devices has been a reliable and long-term stable transcutaneous communication. In the case of prosthetic limbs, existing neuromuscular interfaces have been unable to address this challenge and provide direct and intuitive neural control. Although prosthetic hardware and decoding algorithms are readily available, there is still a lack of appropriate and stable physiological signals for controlling the devices. We developed a percutaneous osseointegrated (bone-anchored) interface that allows for permanent and unlimited bidirectional communication with the human body. With this interface, an artificial limb can be chronically driven by implanted electrodes in the peripheral nerves and muscles of an amputee, outside of controlled environments and during activities of daily living, thus reducing disability and improving quality of life. We demonstrate in one subject, for more than 1 year, that implanted electrodes provide a more precise and reliable control than surface electrodes, regardless of limb position and environmental conditions, and with less effort. Furthermore, long-term stable myoelectric pattern recognition and appropriate sensory feedback elicited via neurostimulation was demonstrated. The opportunity to chronically record and stimulate the neuromuscular system allows for the implementation of intuitive control and naturally perceived sensory feedback, as well as opportunities for the prediction of complex limb motions and better understanding of sensory perception. The permanent bidirectional interface presented here is a critical step toward more natural limb replacement, by combining stable attachment with permanent and reliable human-machine communication.

Concepts: Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, Perception, Sense, Prosthetics, Information, Disability, Prosthesis, Artificial limb


The human brain contains multiple hand-selective areas, in both the sensorimotor and visual systems. Could our brain repurpose neural resources, originally developed for supporting hand function, to represent and control artificial limbs? We studied individuals with congenital or acquired hand-loss (hereafter one-handers) using functional MRI. We show that the more one-handers use an artificial limb (prosthesis) in their everyday life, the stronger visual hand-selective areas in the lateral occipitotemporal cortex respond to prosthesis images. This was found even when one-handers were presented with images of active prostheses that share the functionality of the hand but not necessarily its visual features (e.g. a ‘hook’ prosthesis). Further, we show that daily prosthesis usage determines large-scale inter-network communication across hand-selective areas. This was demonstrated by increased resting state functional connectivity between visual and sensorimotor hand-selective areas, proportional to the intensiveness of everyday prosthesis usage. Further analysis revealed a 3-fold coupling between prosthesis activity, visuomotor connectivity and usage, suggesting a possible role for the motor system in shaping use-dependent representation in visual hand-selective areas, and/or vice versa. Moreover, able-bodied control participants who routinely observe prosthesis usage (albeit less intensively than the prosthesis users) showed significantly weaker associations between degree of prosthesis observation and visual cortex activity or connectivity. Together, our findings suggest that altered daily motor behaviour facilitates prosthesis-related visual processing and shapes communication across hand-selective areas. This neurophysiological substrate for prosthesis embodiment may inspire rehabilitation approaches to improve usage of existing substitutionary devices and aid implementation of future assistive and augmentative technologies.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Brain, Human brain, Cerebellum, Prosthetics, Prosthesis, Artificial limb


Retinal prostheses, which restore partial vision to patients blinded by outer retinal degeneration, are currently in clinical trial. The Argus II retinal prosthesis system was recently awarded CE approval for commercial use in Europe. While retinal prosthesis users have achieved remarkable visual improvement to the point of reading letters and short sentences, the reading process is still fairly cumbersome. This study investigates the possibility of using an epiretinal prosthesis to stimulate visual braille as a sensory substitution for reading written letters and words. The Argus II retinal prosthesis system, used in this study, includes a 10 × 6 electrode array implanted epiretinally, a tiny video camera mounted on a pair of glasses, and a wearable computer that processes the video and determines the stimulation current of each electrode in real time. In the braille reading system, individual letters are created by a subset of dots from a 3 by 2 array of six dots. For the visual braille experiment, a grid of six electrodes was chosen out of the 10 × 6 Argus II array. Groups of these electrodes were then directly stimulated (bypassing the camera) to create visual percepts of individual braille letters. Experiments were performed in a single subject. Single letters were stimulated in an alternative forced choice (AFC) paradigm, and short 2-4-letter words were stimulated (one letter at a time) in an open-choice reading paradigm. The subject correctly identified 89% of single letters, 80% of 2-letter, 60% of 3-letter, and 70% of 4-letter words. This work suggests that text can successfully be stimulated and read as visual braille in retinal prosthesis patients.

Concepts: Psychology, Visual perception, Prosthetics, Book of Optics, Wearable computer, Blindness, Camera, Braille


Retinal degenerative diseases lead to blindness due to loss of the “image capturing” photoreceptors, while neurons in the “image processing” inner retinal layers are relatively well preserved. Electronic retinal prostheses seek to restore sight by electrically stimulating surviving neurons. Most implants are powered through inductive coils, requiring complex surgical methods to implant the coil-decoder-cable-array systems, which deliver energy to stimulating electrodes via intraocular cables. We present a photovoltaic subretinal prosthesis, in which silicon photodiodes in each pixel receive power and data directly through pulsed near-infrared illumination and electrically stimulate neurons. Stimulation was produced in normal and degenerate rat retinas, with pulse durations from 0.5 to 4 ms, and threshold peak irradiances from 0.2 to 10 mW/mm(2), two orders of magnitude below the ocular safety limit. Neural responses were elicited by illuminating a single 70 μm bipolar pixel, demonstrating the possibility of a fully-integrated photovoltaic retinal prosthesis with high pixel density.

Concepts: Neuron, Retina, Eye, Photoreceptor cell, Implants, Prosthetics, Amputation, Image processing


Neural prostheses translate neural activity from the brain into control signals for guiding prosthetic devices, such as computer cursors and robotic limbs, and thus offer individuals with disabilities greater interaction with the world. However, relatively low performance remains a critical barrier to successful clinical translation; current neural prostheses are considerably slower, with less accurate control, than the native arm. Here we present a new control algorithm, the recalibrated feedback intention-trained Kalman filter (ReFIT-KF) that incorporates assumptions about the nature of closed-loop neural prosthetic control. When tested in rhesus monkeys implanted with motor cortical electrode arrays, the ReFIT-KF algorithm outperformed existing neural prosthetic algorithms in all measured domains and halved target acquisition time. This control algorithm permits sustained, uninterrupted use for hours and generalizes to more challenging tasks without retraining. Using this algorithm, we demonstrate repeatable high performance for years after implantation in two monkeys, thereby increasing the clinical viability of neural prostheses.

Concepts: Prosthetics, Control theory, Prosthesis, Artificial limb


Computer vision-based assistive technology solutions can revolutionise the quality of care for people with sensorimotor disorders. The goal of this work was to enable trans-radial amputees to use a simple, yet efficient, computer vision system to grasp and move common household objects with a two-channel myoelectric prosthetic hand.

Concepts: Implants, Artificial intelligence, Prosthetics, Prosthesis, Hand, Artificial limb, Assistive technology, Computer vision


BACKGROUND: Retinal prosthesis systems (RPS) are a novel treatment for profound vision loss in outer retinal dystrophies. Ideal prostheses would offer stable, long-term retinal stimulation and reproducible spatial resolution in a portable form appropriate for daily life. METHODS: We report a prospective, internally controlled, multicentre trial of the Argus II system. Twenty-eight subjects with light perception vision received a retinal implant. Controlled, closed-group, forced-choice letter identification, and, open-choice two-, three- and four-letter word identification tests were carried out. RESULTS: The mean±SD percentage correct letter identification for 21 subjects tested were: letters L, T, E, J, F, H, I, U, 72.3±24.6% system on and 17.7±12.9% system off; letters A, Z, Q, V, N, W, O, C, D, M, 55.0±27.4% system on and 11.8%±10.7% system off, and letters K, R, G, X, B, Y, S, P, 51.7±28.9% system on and 15.3±7.4% system off. (p<0.001 for all groups). A subgroup of six subjects was able to consistently read letters of reduced size, the smallest measuring 0.9 cm (1.7°) at 30 cm, and four subjects correctly identify unrehearsed two-, three- and four-letter words. Average implant duration was 19.9 months. CONCLUSIONS: Multiple blind subjects fitted with the Argus II system consistently identified letters and words using the device, indicating reproducible spatial resolution. This, in combination with stable, long-term function, represents significant progress in the evolution of artificial sight.

Concepts: Prosthetics, Euphemism, Four-letter word


Over time, leg prostheses have improved in design, but have been incapable of actively adapting to different walking velocities in a manner comparable to a biological limb. People with a leg amputation using such commercially available passive-elastic prostheses require significantly more metabolic energy to walk at the same velocities, prefer to walk slower and have abnormal biomechanics compared with non-amputees. A bionic prosthesis has been developed that emulates the function of a biological ankle during level-ground walking, specifically providing the net positive work required for a range of walking velocities. We compared metabolic energy costs, preferred velocities and biomechanical patterns of seven people with a unilateral transtibial amputation using the bionic prosthesis and using their own passive-elastic prosthesis to those of seven non-amputees during level-ground walking. Compared with using a passive-elastic prosthesis, using the bionic prosthesis decreased metabolic cost by 8 per cent, increased trailing prosthetic leg mechanical work by 57 per cent and decreased the leading biological leg mechanical work by 10 per cent, on average, across walking velocities of 0.75-1.75 m s(-1) and increased preferred walking velocity by 23 per cent. Using the bionic prosthesis resulted in metabolic energy costs, preferred walking velocities and biomechanical patterns that were not significantly different from people without an amputation.

Concepts: Energy, Prosthetics, Amputation, Prosthesis, Artificial organ, Artificial limb, C-Leg, Cyborg