Advances in implantable bionic devices for blindness: a review

ANZ J Surg. 2016 Sep;86(9):654-9. doi: 10.1111/ans.13616. Epub 2016 Jun 14.


Since the 1950s, vision researchers have been working towards the ambitious goal of restoring a functional level of vision to the blind via electrical stimulation of the visual pathways. Groups based in Australia, USA, Germany, France and Japan report progress in the translation of retinal visual prosthetics from the experimental to clinical domains, with two retinal visual prostheses having recently received regulatory approval for clinical use. Regulatory approval for cortical visual prostheses is yet to be obtained; however, several groups report plans to conduct clinical trials in the near future, building upon the seminal clinical studies of Brindley and Dobelle. In this review, we discuss the general principles of visual prostheses employing electrical stimulation of the visual pathways, focusing on the retina and visual cortex as the two most extensively studied stimulation sites. We also discuss the surgical and functional outcomes reported to date for retinal and cortical prostheses, concluding with a brief discussion of novel developments in this field and an outlook for the future.

Keywords: bionics; blindness; brain; prosthesis; retina; vision.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bionics / instrumentation*
  • Blindness / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Prosthesis Design
  • Visual Prosthesis*