Visual Cortex Implant Study

Visual Cortex Implant Study

Posted on Nov.10, 2017, under Educational

The developers of the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System, Second Sight Medical Products, Inc, have set their sites onto a whole new set of visually impaired people – those who are completely blind.   Glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, tumors or trauma can lead to complete blindness resulting from damage to photoreceptor cells, the optic nerve, or layers of the retina.

While the ability to see complete images with the new Orion Visual Cortical Prosthesis  System is not possible at this time, the hope is that completely blind patients will have the ability to perceive patterns of light. This new technology works differently than the Argus II, which uses electrical pulses to the retina for patients who have retinal degeneration.  The electrical pulses are able to stimulate the healthy remaining photoreceptor cells. The Orion system bypasses the retina and optic nerve, the normal visual pathway, and provides stimulation to an implant in the visual cortex, located in the occipital lobe in the back of the head.  The visual cortex is the part of the brain responsible for processing and making sense out of visual images.

The Orion system utilizes a miniature video camera mounted on eyeglasses to capture images. The images are then converted into a series of small electrical pulses.  The pulses are transmitted wirelessly to electrodes that have been implanted on the visual cortex of the brain resulting in the user experiencing light awareness. A proof of concept clinical trial performed in October of 2016, implanted a wireless multichannel neurostimulation system on the visual cortex of a 30 year old.  Second Sight reported that the patient, “was able to perceive and localize individual phosphenes or spots of light with no significant adverse side effects.”

In August of 2017,  the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave approval to Second Sight Medical Products, Inc to begin a study on humans. The  Orion™ Cortical Visual Prosthesis System feasibility clinical study will utilize the whole system to include the visual cortex implant, miniature video camera and eye glasses.  Studies will be conducted at two clinical trial sites in the U.S. once the final required FDA concerns are addressed with the goal of performing their first implant before the end of the year. FDA approval allows for each site to enroll up to five patients.  The two sites that will be recruiting patients are the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and Baylor College of Medicine (Baylor) in Houston.


Leslie Degner, RN, BSN