FEIT Research Project Database

Vision restoration with retinal prosthetics: Understanding the impact of retinal degeneration on electrical stimulation efficacy

Project Leader: David Grayden
Staff: Anthony Burkitt
Collaborators: Michael Ibbotson (National Vision Research Institute)
Primary Contact: David Grayden (grayden@unimelb.edu.au)
Keywords: electrophysiology; medical bionics; neural engineering; neuroengineering
Disciplines: Biomedical Engineering

Retinal diseases that result in the death of rod and cone photoreceptors, such as Age-related Macular Degeneration and Retinitis Pigmentosa, are causing blindness in over 50 million people worldwide. Retinal prostheses are one of the most promising treatments for these retinal diseases. By implanting an array of electrodes adjacent to the retina, the device is intended to induce visual perception in these patients by electrically stimulating the surviving retinal neurons whose axons leave the retina and send information to the brain.

In retinal prostheses, device performance largely depends on the function of the residual neurons in the retina. The loss of photoreceptors in diseased retina can lead to changes in the residual neuronal circuits. However, how these changes influence the electrical excitability of the neurons is poorly understood. By recording the activities of neurons from retinas with degeneration, this project aims to study the impact of retinal degeneration on electrical stimulation efficacy, as well as the underlying mechanisms. The information will be helpful in designing stimulation strategies for restoring high-resolution vision to the blind.

In this project, the student will work in a supportive group composed of biologists, physicists and electrical engineers. The student will receive training on eye dissection, microscopy, programming, and the most advanced techniques in electrophysiology such as patch clamping and optical imaging. The project will involve computer modelling of the results obtained. The student will also be trained in literature searching, scientific writing and academic presentation skills. They will also be encouraged to attend relevant conferences.