German researchers are working on a technology for radical optimization of cochlear implants, which will significantly improve the quality of their work. Today it is a simple, even primitive device, a converter of acoustic vibrations into electrical impulses for neurons. But what if you expand the palette of incoming signals by adding light?
The idea is based on the fact that such implants do not restore hearing as such, but only simulate a picture of the world for the patient through responses to external stimuli. A simple microphone is not able to distinguish polyphony, and under conditions of high noise load, the implant is completely useless. A more accurate signal source is needed, which can be the light.
In the experiment, gerbil mice were injected with a virus that delivered a modified gene to the neurons in the ear - it is responsible for the response to light. Next, an optical fiber was inserted into the ears to transmit light from the outside to the neurons. These mice have a well-defined jump reflex, and when the scientists turned on the light, the experimental mice reacted to it as if they jumped to an alarm sound. Then the mice were operated on, made deaf, but they continued to jump further, reacting to the switching on of the light.
The study authors believe they are on the cusp of a revolution in cochlear implants. After all, if you combine the acoustic and light signals, the patient's brain will receive a much clearer, more detailed picture - from which side the sound is coming, from which object, from what distance, etc. And if you think about it, as the complex of sensors grows, we can get something unique, not only compensate for the loss of feelings, but also improve their capabilities to a fabulous level.