A number of studies provided clear evidence that primates could detect ICMS of visual cortex at much lower current levels, also using electrodes more closely-spaced than those of Brindley and Dobelle (Bartlett et al., 1977, Bartlett and Doty, 1980 and Doty, 1965). Intracortical microelectrodes were not benign however; chronic implantations revealed astrocytic proliferation around the electrode shank (Schmidt et al., 1976), and unbalanced or excess charge delivery could damage both the electrodes and Apoptosis inhibitor neuronal tissue (Bartlett et al.,
1977 and Brummer et al., 1983). A preliminary human study examining ICMS of visual cortex was published in 1990, the results of which added significant impetus to the effort to develop a cortical visual prosthesis (Bak et al., 1990). Bak et al. reported that three sighted volunteers were able to perceive phosphenes from ICMS at currents up to 100 times lower than those required by surface stimulation. Moreover, the phosphenes were discriminable when stimulated by electrodes
700 µm apart (Bak et al., 1990). Further work identifying thresholds of total charge delivered and charge density, beyond which neuronal damage could be expected to occur ( McCreery et al., 1994), supported the progression to a more systematic evaluation of ICMS of visual www.selleckchem.com/products/MLN-2238.html cortex in a blind volunteer in 1996 ( Schmidt et al., 1996). A key finding from this study was that the chronically blind subject, who was unable to perceive phosphenes from surface stimulation,
perceived phosphenes from ICMS in a similar manner to sighted volunteers in the previous report ( Schmidt et al., 1996). While this study represents a milestone in the development of a cortical visual prosthesis, significant engineering, surgical, biological and psychophysiological next issues still remained to be addressed before an implant fit for human use could be realized. In the period since, significant work has been undertaken in understanding and addressing these problems, with the goal of developing a functional, wirelessly-operated cortical visual prosthesis with stable long-term performance and an acceptable safety profile. The recent approval of Second Sight׳s Argus II retinal implant in both the US and Europe, and Retina Implant AG׳s European approval of the Alpha IMS implant represents a significant step forwards in the regulatory environment for visual prostheses. Cortical devices remain experimental, however one group recently reported plans to apply for US FDA approval to proceed with human clinical trials (Lane et al., 2012). Given the relatively uncertain outlook for the balance of risk versus benefit for cortical visual prostheses, great rigor must be exercised in the preclinical testing and the recipient selection process.