Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute and the Michigan Eye and Ear Institute have developed an eye-tracking system that can help people with vision loss.
The eye is an optical sensor that detects light and converts it into electrical signals.
The brain processes that electrical signals to process what is known as a visual cortex.
“The brain is able to see in three dimensions, but it cannot see as well in three-dimensional space because we have to put up with the two dimensions,” said lead author Dr. Andrew J. Johnson, an assistant professor of neuroscience at ScrippSci.
“Our system allows us to do a much better job of looking at things that are two-dimensional.”
Johnson and his colleagues are using a technique called optogenetics to take advantage of a gene called LSTL1 that codes for a protein called LSL1 that helps the eye and brain process visual information.
That protein is expressed in many tissues and, when activated, is linked to the production of LSL-3, which acts as a sensor.
Using this gene, the researchers have been able to create a device that uses optogenetic signals to track a person’s eyes and brain activity to detect movement.
The team hopes to use this system to monitor people who have severe vision loss or other conditions that require a person to be in a confined space.
The team also hopes to develop a sensor that can be worn on the skin to detect the movement of other people.
“There are many other things we could do to use optogenetically to identify people, such as track a dog, or use other methods, but this is a step in the right direction,” said Dr. Jonathan T. Shaffer, a professor of neurology at Scamp Southeastern University.