Visual and Non-Visual Navigation in Blind Patients with a Retinal Prosthesis

PLoS One. 2015 Jul 30;10(7):e0134369. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0134369. eCollection 2015.


Human adults with normal vision can combine visual landmark and non-visual self-motion cues to improve their navigational precision. Here we asked whether blind individuals treated with a retinal prosthesis could also benefit from using the resultant new visual signal together with non-visual information when navigating. Four patients (blind for 15-52 years) implanted with the Argus II retinal prosthesis (Second Sight Medical Products Inc. Sylmar, CA), and five age-matched and six younger controls, participated. Participants completed a path reproduction and a triangle completion navigation task, using either an indirect visual landmark and non-visual self-motion cues or non-visual self-motion cues only. Control participants wore goggles that approximated the field of view and the resolution of the Argus II prosthesis. In both tasks, control participants showed better precision when navigating with reduced vision, compared to without vision. Patients, however, did not show similar improvements when navigating with the prosthesis in the path reproduction task, but two patients did show improvements in the triangle completion task. Additionally, all patients showed greater precision than controls in both tasks when navigating without vision. These results indicate that the Argus II retinal prosthesis may not provide sufficiently reliable visual information to improve the precision of patients on tasks, for which they have learnt to rely on non-visual senses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Blindness / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Visual Prosthesis*

Grant support

This work was supported by the James S. McDonnell Foundation 21st Century Science Scholar in Understanding Human Cognition Program, and the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre for Ophthalmology at Moorfields Eye Hospital and University College London.