The story of the BrainPort V100 – from vibrating plates, to balance aids, to a visual aid that helps users “see” with their tongue
Roisin McGuigan |
At a Glance
- Visual information can be sent, via the tongue, in a manner that allows visually impaired people to receive and interpret it in a meaningful way
- BrainPort works by sending information from a camera to an array of sensors on the tongue, which form patterns by electrostimulation which, after training, are interpreted by the user
- In test subjects without visual impairment, tongue electrostimulation results in activation of the somatosensory cortex (as expected). But in those who are blind, it’s the visual cortex that becomes activated
- The technology could offer a less expensive and nonsurgical alternative to retinal implants, and might even be able to be used alongside other technologies to help improve independence for the profoundly blind
Neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to reorganize, adapt, and form new neural connections throughout adulthood – is an area of neurology with a checkered past. For many years it was thought that the adult brain was “hard-wired” with fixed neuronal circuits – a notion that’s now disproven. Today, there’s solid evidence of adult neuronal plasticity and an active, experience-dependent reorganization of the synaptic networks of the brain involving multiple interrelated structures – and this includes the cerebral cortex, the region of the brain where most visual input is processed. The BrainPort V100 is a device that was developed to exploit exactly these plastic processes, in order to help users “see” objects with their tongues…
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