Electrical stimulation of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), which transmit visual information to the brain, is used in retinal implants to treat blindness caused by photoreceptor degeneration. However, the performance of existing clinical implants is limited by indiscriminate stimulation of many cells and cell types. Recent work in isolated macaque retina has shown the ability to precisely evoke spikes in the major RGC types by direct electrical stimulation at safe current levels, with single-cell, single-spike resolution and avoidance of axon bundle activation in many cases. However, these findings have not been verified in the human retina. Here, electrical activation of the major human RGC types was examined using large-scale, multi-electrode recording and stimulation and compared to results from several macaque retinas obtained using the same methods. Electrical stimulation of the major human RGC types closely paralleled results in macaque, with similar somatic and axonal stimulation thresholds, cellular and cell type selectivity of stimulation, avoidance of axon bundle stimulation by calibration, targeting of different cell types based on their distinct electrical signatures, and potential efficacy of real-time stimulus optimization for artificial vision. The results indicate that the macaque retina provides a quantitatively accurate picture of how focal electrical stimulation can be used in future high-resolution implants.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience