Abstract: Electronic interfaces to the retina represent an exciting development in science, engineering, and medicine – an opportunity to exploit our knowledge of neural circuitry and function to restore or even enhance vision. However, although existing devices demonstrate proof of principle in treating incurable blindness, they produce limited visual function. Some of the reasons for this can be understood based on the precise and specific neural circuitry that mediates visual signaling in the retina. Consideration of this circuitry suggests that future devices may need to operate at single-cell, single-spike resolution in order to mediate naturalistic visual function. I will show large-scale multi-electrode recording and stimulation data from the primate retina indicating that, in some cases, such resolution is possible. I will also discuss cases in which it fails, and propose that we can improve artificial vision in such conditions by incorporating our knowledge of the visual system in bi-directional devices that adapt to the host neural circuitry. Finally, I will briefly discuss the potential implications for other neural interfaces of the future.
Bio: E.J. Chichilnisky is the John R. Adler Professor of Neurosurgery, and Professor of Ophthalmology, at Stanford University, where he has worked since 2013. Previously, he worked at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies for 15 years. He received his B.A. in Mathematics from Princeton University, and his M.S. in mathematics and Ph.D. in neuroscience from Stanford University. His research has focused on understanding the spatiotemporal patterns of electrical activity in the retina that convey visual information to the brain, and their origins in retinal circuitry, using large-scale multi-electrode recordings. His ongoing work now focuses on using basic science knowledge along with electrical stimulation to develop a novel high-fidelity artificial retina for treating incurable blindness.