E.J. Chichilnisky on what it takes to reproduce the neural code of the retina

E.J. Chichilnisky on what it takes to reproduce the neural code of the retina

E.J. Chichilnisky is a Professor of Neurosurgery and Ophthalmology at Stanford University. His research has focused on understanding the spatiotemporal patterns of electrical activity in the retina that convey visual information to the brain, and their origins in retinal circuitry, using large-scale multi-electrode recordings. His ongoing work now focuses on using basic science knowledge along with electrical stimulation to develop a novel high-fidelity artificial retina for treating incurable blindness.

***This podcast is sponsored by Ripple Neuro, check out their Neuroscience Research Tools here***

Top 3 Takeaways:

  • "The basic 3 steps of the device are to 1) read the spontaneous activity that's there and use that to identify the different cells and different cell types; 2) pass current through each of the many electrodes (a thousand electrodes in the first device) to figure out which electrodes activate which cells and how much; and 3) finally translate that according to the “scores" we have for the different cell types into patterns of activity. This is way more complicated than any neural interface that's been designed."
  • "Plasticity in the brain is not there just because the brain wants to be plastic. It's there because it's evolutionarily valuable to have a plastic circuit. If you think about it from an electronics point of view, a plastic circuit is costly."
  • "Our understanding of the retina is 30 years ahead of our understanding of the brain. That's not because retina neuroscientists are smarter – it's because the retina is more accessible and easier to understand. So our understanding in the retina always precedes our understanding of the cortex."

0:45 "Do you do you wanna introduce yourself?"

1:30 "So how did you get into this?"

3:45 "What is your proposal versus how things were being done before?"

9:45 What are the 20 types of retinal cells?

14:30 "What's is this a specific design of the device? And then what's your role in this as well?"

17:30 "Are you guys working with other companies in the field too?"

19:30 Sponsorship by Ripple Neuro

20:00 Are cortical implants more or less sensitive to your 'orchestra' approach?

26:15 "What are some of the biggest challenges in this or if you had unlimited funding, what would you throw that funding at first"

35:00 "How are you interfacing with these different cell types?"

38:30 " That all sounds very tedious. And especially if you're talking about thousands of electrodes, is this done by hand, or is this the poor graduate student that has to do this? Or is there a way to automate it?"

43:15 "What are some timelines that we can expect with this technology?"

44:30 "What's the difference between you and Dr. Palanker?"

46:15 "Is there anything that we didn't talk about that you wanted to mention?"

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