Retinal prostheses can restore a functional form of vision in patients affected by dystrophies of the outer retinal layer. Beyond clinical utility, prostheses for the stimulation of the optic nerve, the visual thalamus or the visual cortex could also serve as tools for studying the visual system. Optic-nerve stimulation is particularly promising because it directly activates nerve fibres, takes advantage of the high-level information processing occurring downstream in the visual pathway, does not require optical transparency and could be effective in cases of eye trauma. Here we show, in anaesthetized rabbits and with support from numerical modelling, that an intraneural electrode array with high mechanical stability placed in the intracranial segment of the optic nerve induces, on electrical stimulation, selective activation patterns in the visual cortex. These patterns are measured as electrically evoked cortical potentials via an ECoG array placed in the contralateral cortex. The intraneural electrode array should enable further investigations of the effects of electrical stimulation in the visual system and could be further developed as a visual prosthesis for blind patients.
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The authors declare that all data supporting the results in this study are available within the paper and its Supplementary Information. The raw and analysed datasets generated during the study are available for research purposes from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
Code used for the hybrid FEA model and NEURON simulation is available at https://github.com/lne-lab/nBME2019. The authors declare that the algorithm used for blind source separation is described in the referenced papers. The source code can be obtained from S.M. (email@example.com) upon reasonable request.
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We acknowledge the support from the Bioelectron Microscopy Core Facility (BIOEM) of École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne. This work has been supported by École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, Medtronic, Bertarelli Foundation and Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering. F.A. is supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action agreement no. 750947 (BIREHAB).
The authors declare no competing interests.
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