Friday, April 24, 2009

Logo of the United States National Eye Institu...Image via Wikipedia

Our eyes are constantly making saccades, or little jumps. Yet the world appears to us as a smooth whole. Somehow, the brain's visual system "knows" where the eyes are about to move and is able to adjust for that movement. In a paper published online this week in Nature, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the National Eye Institute (NEI) for the first time provide a circuit-level explanation as to why.

"This is a classic problem in neuroscience," says Marc Sommer, assistant professor of neuroscience at Pitt, who coauthored the paper with Robert Wurtz, senior investigator at NEI, one of the National Institutes of Health. "People have been searching for a circuit to accomplish this stability for the last 50 years, and we think we've made good progress with this study."

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Left ear cochlear implant as worn by userImage via Wikipedia

Australian bionic eye researchers say they are likely to start clinical tests of a bionic eye within two years.

As part of the Government's response to last year's 2020 summit, $50 million will go to bionic eye research.

The director of Bionic Vision Australia, Professor Anthony Burkitt, says an implant is likely to be trialled on patients within two years and commercially available in five years.

"We'd imagine that very much like the development of the Cochlear implant it became better and better over time, so that eventually within five to seven years people would be able to read large print, recognise faces, do that sort of thing," he said.

"So that's the sort of - at least in the initial phase - is the sort of quality of vision that we're looking at."

He says the bionic eye will be initially for people who are completely blind or suffering age-related vision loss.

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Possible cure for macular degeneration

The same view with age-related macular degener...Image via Wikipedia

There is new hope for people who suffer from macular degeneration.

Macular degeneration causes the center of your vision area to blur and deteriorate, but researchers say replacing cells in the filling wall of the retina could cure the condition.

"You're actually giving them a cell. This is a whole entity if you want to call it anything, and that's just a different way of looking at treating people. It truly is regeneration in terms of putting something back that is gone, so it's a major step forward," said Peter Coffey at the University College London.

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