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Mohit N. Shivdasani, Nicholas C. Sinclair, Lisa N. Gillespie, Matthew A. Petoe, Samuel A. Titchener, James B. Fallon, Thushara Perera, Darien Pardinas-Diaz, Nick M. Barnes, Peter J. Blamey, for the Bionic Vision Australia Consortium; Identification of Characters and Localization of Images Using Direct Multiple-Electrode Stimulation With a Suprachoroidal Retinal Prosthesis. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2017;58(10):3962-3974. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.16-21311.
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Retinal prostheses provide vision to blind patients by eliciting phosphenes through electrical stimulation. This study explored whether character identification and image localization could be achieved through direct multiple-electrode stimulation with a suprachoroidal retinal prosthesis.
Two of three retinitis pigmentosa patients implanted with a suprachoroidal electrode array were tested on three psychophysical tasks. Electrode patterns were stimulated to elicit perception of simple characters, following which percept localization was tested using either static or dynamic images. Eye tracking was used to assess the association between accuracy and eye movements.
In the character identification task, accuracy ranged from 2.7% to 93.3%, depending on the patient and character. In the static image localization task, accuracy decreased from near perfect to <20% with decreasing contrast (patient 1). Patient 2 scored up to 70% at 100% contrast. In the dynamic image localization task, patient 1 recognized the trajectory of the image up to speeds of 64 deg/s, whereas patient 2 scored just above chance. The degree of eye movement in both patients was related to accuracy and, to some extent, stimulus direction.
The ability to identify characters and localize percepts demonstrates the capacity of the suprachoroidal device to provide meaningful information to blind patients. The variation in scores across all tasks highlights the importance of using spatial cues from phosphenes, which becomes more difficult at low contrast. The use of spatial information from multiple electrodes and eye-movement compensation is expected to improve performance outcomes during real-world prosthesis use in a camera-based system. (ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01603576.)
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