Multiple factors may influence the performance of a visual prosthesis based on intracortical microstimulation: nonhuman primate behavioural experimentation

J Neural Eng. 2011 Jun;8(3):035001. doi: 10.1088/1741-2560/8/3/035001. Epub 2011 May 18.


We hypothesize that a visual prosthesis capable of evoking high-resolution visual perceptions can be produced using high-electrode-count arrays of penetrating microelectrodes implanted into the primary visual cortex of a blind human subject. To explore this hypothesis, and as a prelude to human psychophysical experiments, we have conducted a set of experiments in primary visual cortex (V1) of non-human primates using chronically implanted Utah Electrode Arrays (UEAs). The electrical and recording properties of implanted electrodes, the high-resolution visuotopic organization of V1, and the stimulation levels required to evoke behavioural responses were measured. The impedances of stimulated electrodes were found to drop significantly immediately following stimulation sessions, but these post-stimulation impedances returned to pre-stimulation values by the next experimental session. Two months of periodic microstimulation at currents of up to 96 µA did not impair the mapping of receptive fields from local field potentials or multi-unit activity, or impact behavioural visual thresholds of light stimuli that excited regions of V1 that were implanted with UEAs. These results demonstrate that microstimulation at the levels used did not cause functional impairment of the electrode array or the neural tissue. However, microstimulation with current levels ranging from 18 to 76 µA (46 ± 19 µA, mean ± std) was able to elicit behavioural responses on eight out of 82 systematically stimulated electrodes. We suggest that the ability of microstimulation to evoke phosphenes and elicit a subsequent behavioural response may depend on several factors: the location of the electrode tips within the cortical layers of V1, distance of the electrode tips to neuronal somata, and the inability of nonhuman primates to recognize and respond to a generalized set of evoked percepts.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy / instrumentation*
  • Equipment Design
  • Equipment Failure Analysis
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Phosphenes / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Prosthesis*