Pulse trains to percepts: the challenge of creating a perceptually intelligible world with sight recovery technologies

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2015 Sep 19;370(1677):20140208. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2014.0208.


An extraordinary variety of sight recovery therapies are either about to begin clinical trials, have begun clinical trials, or are currently being implanted in patients. However, as yet we have little insight into the perceptual experience likely to be produced by these implants. This review focuses on methodologies, such as optogenetics, small molecule photoswitches and electrical prostheses, which use artificial stimulation of the retina to elicit percepts. For each of these technologies, the interplay between the stimulating technology and the underlying neurophysiology is likely to result in distortions of the perceptual experience. Here, we describe some of these potential distortions and discuss how they might be minimized either through changes in the encoding model or through cortical plasticity.

Keywords: macular degeneration; neural coding; neural prosthetic; optogenetic; retinal degeneration; vision restoration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Electric Stimulation Therapy / methods
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Optogenetics / methods
  • Retina / cytology
  • Retina / physiology
  • Vision Disorders / physiopathology
  • Vision Disorders / psychology
  • Vision Disorders / therapy*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Visual Prosthesis