Purpose: We studied the capabilities of the Argus II retinal prosthesis for guiding fine hand movement, and demonstrated and quantified guidance improvement when using the device over when not using the device for progressively less predictable trajectories.
Methods: A total of 21 patients with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), remaining vision no more than bare light perception, and an implanted Argus II epiretinal prostheses used a touchscreen to trace white paths on black backgrounds. Sets of paths were divided into three categories: right-angle/single-turn, mixed-angle/single-turn, and mixed-angle/two-turn. Subjects trained on paths by using prosthetic vision and auditory feedback, and then were tested without auditory feedback, with and without prosthetic vision. Custom software recorded position and timing information for any contact that subjects made with the screen. The area between the correct path and the trace, and the elapsed time to trace a path were used to evaluate subject performance.
Results: For right-angle/single-turn sets, average tracing error was reduced by 63% and tracing time increased by 156% when using the prosthesis, relative to residual vision. With mixed-angle/single-turn sets, error was reduced by 53% and time to complete tracing increased by 184%. Prosthesis use decreased error by 38% and increased tracing time by 252% for paths that incorporated two turns.
Conclusions: Use of an epiretinal visual prosthesis can allow RP patients with no more than bare light perception to guide fine hand movement visually. Further, prosthetic input tends to make subjects slower when performing tracing tasks, presumably reflecting greater effort. (ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01123928.)
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00407602.