American researchers at Rice University, Texas, are currently working on the prototype of a chip called FlatScope. This can be implanted in the brain and restore sight or hearing. An advance that would help millions of people affected by the loss of one or both of these senses.
This ambitious project has everything to be a real success and can revolutionize the lives of many people. However, this research has a high cost, estimated at millions of dollars. For the time being, scientists have been awarded 4-year funding worth $ 4 million, awarded by DARPA (US Agency for Advanced Defense Research Projects).
To accomplish this feat, they will proceed to a deep cerebral stimulation. The chip, which will contain hundreds of electrodes, will be implanted at the level of the cortex and will then stimulate millions of neurons. After receiving the visual and auditory information, the implant will send them to the areas of the brain concerned by both senses. This process is similar to that used in the Parkinson’s disease treatment, which is less important as explained by Jacob Robinson (part of the FlatScope project): “These are systems with only 16 electrodes, far too limited to restore Sight or hearing “.
At this implant will be added a tiny microscope that is developed by another team of the University of Rice. This one will make it possible to observe and record the brain activity, and in particular one million neurons simultaneously thanks to bioluminescent proteins, which will allow to learn more about their functioning. Ashok Veeraraghavan explains that this project will allow great advances: “As the microscope will record 3D images, we will be able to see the surface of the brain but also a certain depth” .
Jacob is sure to be able to improve the lives of many people, even if for the time being research is only at the beginning: “We are able to create processors containing billions of elements on a chip destined for Smartphone that we all have in our pocket. So why would we have difficulty applying these advances to the neural interfaces? “.