We are involved in the development of a bionic eye to aid the visually impaired.
Vision is perhaps the most fundamental of our senses. Although all parts of the eye are important for perceiving a good image, the most vital layer for vision is the retina. The retina is a piece of neural tissue that lines the inside of the eyeball. The light energy that falls on the photoreceptor cells of the retina is converted into a set of electrical impulses that are transmitted to visual centers of the brain.
The visual system is the most studied part of the brain. Understanding the organisation of the retina and complete visual pathways has been the goal of many researchers over the years. The University of Melbourne is one of the partners of Bionic Vision Australia, a national consortium of researchers working together to develop a bionic eye that can restore sight to people with age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa.
The bionic eye consists of a retinal implant connected to a video camera that is built into a pair of glasses. The camera converts images into electrical impulses that activate remaining retinal cells. The cells then send visual information along the optic nerve to the brain, where is interpreted as an image. In this way, the bionic eye mimics the function of the retina and restores a sense of vision.
The NeuroEngineering Laboratory is part of the Stimulation Strategy team for the Bionic Eye project. Our goal is to develop methods for providing the retina with electrical stimulation so we can elicit useful vision. To achieve this goal, we are constructing a model of the retina and its functional response to stimulation by electrical current. We are also developing modelling approaches and numerical techniques encapsulated in software that provide more accurate predictions for electrical stimulation. This will lead to improved understanding of the retina’s signal processing and allow us to deliver meaningful vision to patients.
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