Retinal and Cortical Activation by Electrical Stimulation with Retina Implants

Retinal and Cortical Activation by Electrical Stimulation with Retina Implants
Stett A, Eysel UT
Klin Monbl Augenheilkd. 2016 Nov;233(11):1213-1221. Epub 2016 Nov 17.

In Germany, about 30,000 to 40,000 people suffer from retinitis pigmentosa (RP), which ultimately results in blindness. The only aid to blind RP patients are retinal implants: These have been under development for several years and have now been approved as a medical product. Retinal implants produce visual perceptions in response to electrical stimulation of the degenerated retina and are useful in the everyday life of blind people. However, the currently achievable quality of vision is such that people with a retinal implant are still legally blind. The visual quality that can be achieved with epi- and subretinal implants depends not only on patient-specific factors such as individual history and status of retinal degeneration, but especially on the interface between implant and retina and the quality of the achievable neuronal activation. Biophysical approaches to functional improvements of the implants are founded on the physiology of the retina (cell density, intraretinal interconnections), are based on technical optimisation of the interface (electrode materials, size and density), and exploit the stimulation protocols with which visual information is fed into the degenerated retina (time courses of electrical stimuli, spatiotemporal stimulation pattern). Optimisation of stimulation parameters can be supported by a detailed analysis of cortical responses, with appropriate electrophysiological and optical methods. This article looks at both the physiological and biophysical fundamentals of electrical retinal stimulation, as well as the resulting retinal and cortical activation.