Efforts to improve the devices have so far largely focused on increasing the number of cells that are re- activated in the damaged retina.
"But our research shows that another factor is just as critical," said Sheila Nirenberg, PhD, of Weill Cornell Medical College, lead author of the study. "Not only is it necessary to stimulate large numbers of cells, but they also have to be stimulated with the right code -- the code the retina sends to the brain."
Using mice as subjects, the authors built two prosthetic systems: one with the code, one without. The researchers found the device with the code reconstructed more details. "Incorporating the code jumped the system's performance up to normal levels -- that is, there was enough information to reconstruct faces, newsprint, landscapes, essentially anything," Nirenberg said.
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