Research Topics

Artificial Vision & Neural Engineering

Neural Engineering

01 Retinal Prosthesis (Bionic Eye)

Our main research topic is retinal prosthetics, which is a specific research area of neural engineering. The field of retinal prosthetics is at the intersection of electrical engineering and neuroscience, particularly microfabrication/BioMEMS and retinal neurophysiology. As one of neural prosthetics, microelectronic retinal prosthetic systems (a.k.a bionic eye) have restored some level of useful vision to individuals blinded by retinitis pigmentosa (RP) or age-related macular degeneration (AMD). At this moment, there are three bionic eye systems (Argus II of Second Sight, Alpha-AMS of Retina Implant, IRIS of Pixium Vision) are commercially available around the world. But, the best performance is still sub-optimal and far away from normal vision. For significantly enhanced artificial vision (e.g. improved spatial resolution), a technical breakthrough should take place in implantable microelectrode arrays using microfabrication technologies. However, the limited performance of existing state-of-the-art devices suggests a game-changing innovation requires much deeper understanding of the retina. Our previous works (Im and Fried, J. Physiol., 2015; Im and Fried, J. Neural Eng., 2016; Im et al., J. Neural Eng., 2018; Lee and Im, J. Neural Eng., 2018; Lee and Im, IEEE TNSRE, 2019) have substantially increased our understanding of properties of retinal neurons in response to electric stimulation. We are eager to develop advanced next-generation retinal implants using new insights obtained from those studies as well as our expertise in micro-/nano-fabrication.

- M. Im - Mini-Symposium on Retinal Prosthetics

Following is the YouTube link of my talk which was given at Mini-Symposium on Retinal Prostheses virtually hosted at Stanford University.

02 Other Neural Prostheses

The eventual objective of our long-term research is to promote the quality of health care by integration of electrical engineering and neuroscience. For example, the insights from our research in the retina are likely to be applicable to other parts of the central nervous system (CNS). Therefore, our future research will be expanded to more diverse applications such as visual cortex stimulation for other types of vision loss, deep brain stimulation (DBS; What is DBS? – youtube; Before & After DBS – youtube) for neurological disorders, and spinal cord stimulation (a.k.a bionic spine; Paralysed Rats Made to Walk Again – youtube) for movement disorders. Research methods similar to those we have performed in the retina can be carried out to reveal mechanisms underlying electrically-evoked responses arising in the aforementioned parts of CNS. Also, novel implantable electrode arrays can be developed for those applications.