Electrical stimulation of mammalian retinal ganglion cells with multielectrode arrays

J Neurophysiol. 2006 Jun;95(6):3311-27. doi: 10.1152/jn.01168.2005. Epub 2006 Jan 25.


Existing epiretinal implants for the blind are designed to electrically stimulate large groups of surviving retinal neurons using a small number of electrodes with diameters of several hundred micrometers. To increase the spatial resolution of artificial sight, electrodes much smaller than those currently in use are desirable. In this study, we stimulated and recorded ganglion cells in isolated pieces of rat, guinea pig, and monkey retina. We used microfabricated hexagonal arrays of 61 platinum disk electrodes with diameters between 6 and 25 microm, spaced 60 microm apart. Charge-balanced current pulses evoked one or two spikes at latencies as short as 0.2 ms, and typically only one or a few recorded ganglion cells were stimulated. Application of several synaptic blockers did not abolish the evoked responses, implying direct activation of ganglion cells. Threshold charge densities were typically <0.1 mC/cm2 for a pulse duration of 100 micros, corresponding to charge thresholds of <100 pC. Stimulation remained effective after several hours and at high frequencies. To show that closely spaced electrodes can elicit independent ganglion cell responses, we used the multielectrode array to stimulate several nearby ganglion cells simultaneously. From these data, we conclude that electrical stimulation of mammalian retina with small-diameter electrode arrays is achievable and can provide high temporal and spatial precision at low charge densities. We review previous epiretinal stimulation studies and discuss our results in the context of 32 other publications, comparing threshold parameters and safety limits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Blindness / physiopathology
  • Blindness / rehabilitation
  • Differential Threshold / physiology
  • Electric Stimulation / instrumentation*
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Electrodes, Implanted*
  • Equipment Design
  • Equipment Failure Analysis
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology*
  • Guinea Pigs
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Macaca radiata
  • Microelectrodes*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology*
  • Visual Fields / physiology*