Research

Fig. 1: Degenerative retinal diseases cause irreversible vision loss in more than 10 million people worldwide. Analogous to cochlear implants, retinal prostheses electrically stimulate surviving retinal cells in order to evoke neuronal responses that are inter-preted by the brain as visual percepts (‘phosphenes’).

Restoring vision to the blind

The ‘bionic eye’—so long a dream of the future—is finally becoming a reality with retinal prostheses available in the US and Europe (Fig. 1; over 300 patients implanted). With cortical implants, optogenetic approaches, and stem cell therapy in development, a wide range of sight restoration (SR) options should be available to patients diagnosed with severe blindness within the next decade.

Despite the increasing clinical and commercial use of these devices, the perceptual experience of SR patients is surprisingly poorly understood. A common misconception in the field is that each electrode in an array can be thought of as a ‘pixel’ in an image; to generate a complex visual experience, one then simply needs to turn on the right combination of pixels. However, almost all SR technologies are likely to suffer from perceptual distortions and subsequent loss of information due to interactions between the technology and the underlying neurophysiology.

The goal of our research is therefore:

  • to understand how interactions between SR technologies and neurophysiological mechanisms shape the visual perception of SR patients, and
  • to use this knowledge to develop advanced stimulation strategies for different SR devices, with the ultimate goal of restoring useful vision to the blind.

Clinical studies have demonstrated that the vision provided by current SR devices differs substantially from normal sight.

Rather than predicting perceptual distortions, one needs to solve the inverse problem: What is the best stimulus to generate a desired visual percept?

Novel stimulation strategies can be tested on sighted subjects viewing a simulation of prosthetic vision in virtual/augmented reality.

Lab members

Avatar

Michael Beyeler

Assistant Professor

Avatar

Justin Kasowski

PhD Student

Avatar

Vy Lam

Research Assistant

Avatar

Rashi Raghulan

Research Assistant

Avatar

Archita Tharanipathy

Research Assistant

Avatar

You?

Join us!

Teaching

This graduate course will introduce students to the multidisciplinary field of bionic vision, with an emphasis on both the computer science and neuroscience of the field.

Join Us

We are hiring!

We are looking for curious and talented individuals who share our vision of helping the blind see again.

We are an interdisciplinary group working at the intersection of computer science, neuroscience, and psychology. We value a strong work ethic, independence, clarity of thought, creativity, optimism, and computational/programming skills. We practice open science, and we know that science is at its best when it is diverse. It doesn’t matter where you’re from – it just matters where you want to go.

If these values resonate with you, read on.

Postdocs

Please contact Michael with your CV and a brief statement of research accomplishments, interests, and career plans. Check the Research section to see a list of projects we are particularly interested in.

To be considered, you will need at least one publication in a high-quality international conference (computer science) or journal (neuroscience) and you need to have a reasonable chance of getting a fellowship to support your stay at UCSB.

Graduate Students

If you are a UCSB graduate student looking for a lab, please contact Michael to set up a time to meet.

If you are looking for a graduate position and you are not already at UCSB, please first apply to one of the following Graduate programs:

You will then be able to indicate your wish to work with Michael in the “Major and Degree Objective” tab under “Research Interests”.

Please know that we get a lot of emails from prospective Grad students. If you decide to contact Michael before applying to the program, you can make your application stand out by demonstrating that you have spent some time on our website and thought hard about why bionic vision is a good fit for your skills and interest.

Undergraduate Students

If you are a UCSB undergraduate, please contact Michael with your prior experience and your transcript (unofficial is fine) and we can arrange a meeting.

In general, undergraduates in our lab work for academic credit or on a volunteer basis.

Contact