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Much of the progress and success to date of neurotechnology centers around augmenting signals coming into the brain, enabling greater communication between individuals and the world around them.
Devices that augment hearing are referred to as neural prostheses. The cochlear implant, as one example, allows hearing in people who are deaf by converting sound to something the brain can interpret, circumventing the sensory hearing mechanisms that are compromised.
The implant includes a microphone and a speech processor that "transduces sounds to electrical signals that are applied directly to the cochlea via electrodes." Also under study is a similarly functional visual device that allows some vision for those who are blind.
Also called an artificial retina,3 the device converts light into electrical signals to stimulate the retina. While the hearing device is functional and successful in enabling those who are deaf to hear, follow, and participate in conversations, the visual device is still in its early stages, although in early tests, people who are blind reported they were able to discern light spots that they could not without the device.
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