Scientists Construct First Map of How the Brain Organizes Everything We See

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Our eyes may be our window to the world, but how do we make sense of the thousands of images that flood our retinas each day? Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have found that the brain is wired to put in order all the categories of objects and actions that we see. They have created the first interactive map of how the brain organizes these groupings. Continue reading

Bionic Eye Implants now Allow Blind People to Read

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Researchers have made a breakthrough in restoring the ability to read for blind people with the speed they were formerly accustomed to, by using a “bionic eye” implant to transmit Braille patterns directly on to patients’ retinas.

The successful trial was carried out using a device called Argus II, which allows patients suffering from Continue reading

US-Born Latinas at Great Risk of Having Babies with Retinoblastoma

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Their Mexican-born counterparts at lesser risk

In a large epidemiologic study, researchers at UCLA’s Jonsson Cancer Center found that the children of U.S.-born Latina women are at higher risk of having retinoblastoma, a malignant tumor of the retina which Continue reading

Antioxidant Shown to Reduce Blindness Risk in Extremely Premature Babies

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Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is the second most common cause of childhood blindness in the United States, occurring in half of premature infants born earlier than or at 28 weeks gestational age. The condition is caused by abnormal blood vessel development in the retina of the eye. ROP risk increases with decreasing gestational age. Continue reading

Report Shows Risk of Blindness halved over last Decade

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Opthalmology

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most frequent cause of blindness in the Western World. A report from the University of Copenhagen and Glostrup Hospital in Denmark published today shows the number of new cases of blindness and severe visual loss in Denmark has been halved during the last ten years. Continue reading

How the Brain Computes 3-Dimensional Structure

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3dThe incredible ability of our brain to create a three-dimensional (3D) representation from an object’s two-dimensional projection on the retina is something that we may take for granted, but the process is not well understood and is likely to be highly complex. Now, new research published by Cell Press in the January 12 issue of the journal Neuron provides the first direct evidence that specific brain areas underlie perception of different 3D structures and sheds light the way that the primate brain reconstructs real-world objects. Continue reading

Thyroid Hormone Controls Visual Pigment in Cones

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What part does the thyroid gland have in vision? Thyroid hormone is crucially involved in controlling which visual pigment is produced in the cones. Previously, it was assumed that the color sensitivity of the cones is fixed in the adult retina. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt/M., together with colleagues at the University of Frankfurt and universities in Vienna, have now been able to show that in mature cones of mice and rats the production of visual pigment is regulated by thyroid hormone. It is assumed that this mechanism exists in all mammals, including humans. If so, the adult-onset of thyroid hormone deficiency would affect color vision.

Thyroid hormone has a crucial role during development of the body and also of the nervous system. Children born with a thyroid hormone deficiency have serious defects of physiological and mental development, hence newborns are routinely checked for thyroid Continue reading

Less Age-Related Vision Loss Linked to Omega-3s

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Women who get lots of omega-3 fatty acids are less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD), an eye disease affecting millions of older adults in the U.S.

That’s the conclusion of a new study, which jibes with earlier research linking fish consumption to slower progression of AMD. Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and EPA include salmon, trout, sardines, herring and tuna.

AMD is caused by abnormal blood vessel growth behind the retina or breakdown of light-sensitive cells within the retina itself, both of which can cause serious vision impairment. Some 1.7 million Americans have severe vision loss due to the disease, making it the leading cause of blindness in older adults. Continue reading

Retinal Implant Could Help Restore Part of Vision

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BOSTON – Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have designed a retinal implant for people who have lost their vision.

The retinal prosthesis may help restore some vision by electrically stimulating nerve cells that normally carry visual input from the retina to the brain.

The chip will not restore normal vision but can help blind people navigate a room or walk down a sidewalk more easily, say MIT researchers.

“Anything that could help them see a little better and let them identify objects and move around a room would be an enormous help,” says Shawn Kelly, a researcher at MIT.

Patients who receive the implant would wear a pair of glasses with a camera that sends images to a micro-chip attached to the eyeball.

The glasses also contain a coil that wirelessly transmits power to receiving coils surrounding the eyeball. When the micro-chip receives visual information, it activates electrodes that stimulates nerve cells in the areas of the retina corresponding to the features of the visual scene.

The electrodes directly activate optical nerves that carry signals to the brain, bypassing the damaged layers of retina.

The research team, led by John Wyatt, MIT professor of electrical engineering and computer science, recently reported a new prototype that they hope to start testing in blind patients within the next three years, after some safety refinements are made.

These findings are slated for publication in IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering.