A brief history of the visual prosthesis
D. Andrew NELSON1, Warren E. FINN1, and Peter G. LOPRESTI2
The dream of being able to restore sight in the blind has captured the imagination of mankind. Until recently, the restoration of vision has seemed only as some miraculous event. The historical roots of the visual neuroprosthetic field are found in the early experiments in bioelectricity demonstrating nerves and muscles could become activated by electrical stimulation (Galvani) (Aldini) (Volta). The application of the idea to stimulation of the visual system in humans was first explored in the mid 20th century by Brindley. Subsequently, a series of pioneering researchers, such as Dobelle and Pollen, demonstrated the sensation of light could be evoked in humans with an appropriate electrical stimulus to the visual system. In this presentation, we trace the significant research that has fostered the growth of the field of visual neuroprosthetics. We review the pioneers in the field and some of their contributions. We present a graphic display of the historical milestones leading up to recent developments, including the four major approaches to reestablishing visual function.
Tenth Annual Meeting of the International Society for the
History of the Neurosciences (ISHN) and
St. Andrews, Scotland, 2005