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Scientists implant ‘world’s first’ bionic eye

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Australian scientists said Thursday they had successfully implanted a “world first” bionic eye prototype, describing it as a major breakthrough for the visually impaired.

Bionic Vision Australia (BVA), a government-funded science consortium, said it had surgically installed an “early prototype” robotic eye in a woman with hereditary sight loss caused by degenerative retinitis pigmentosa.

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Described as a “pre-bionic eye”, the tiny device is attached to Dianne Ashworth’s retina and contains 24 electrodes which send electrical impulses to stimulate her eye’s nerve cells.

Researchers switched on the device in their laboratory last month after Ashworth had fully recovered from surgery and she said it was an incredible experience.

“I didn’t know what to expect, but all of a sudden, I could see a little flash — it was amazing,” she said in a statement.

“Every time there was stimulation there was a different shape that appeared in front of my eye.

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Penny Allen, the surgeon who implanted the device, described it as a “world first”.

Ashworth’s device only works when it is connected inside the lab and BVA chairman David Penington said it would be used to explore how images were “built” by the brain and eye.

Feedback from the device will be fed into a “vision processor” allowing doctors to determine exactly what Ashworth sees when her retina is subjected to various levels of stimulation.

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“The team is looking for consistency of shapes, brightness, size and location of flashes to determine how the brain interprets this information,” explained Rob Shepherd, director of the Bionics Institute which was also involved in the breakthrough.

The team is working towards a “wide-view” 98-electrode device that will provide users with the ability to perceive large objects such as buildings and cars, and a “high-acuity” 1,024-electrode device.

Patients with the high-acuity device are expected to be able to recognise faces and read large print, and BVA said it would be suitable for people with retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration.

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Penington said the early results from Ashworth had “fulfilled our best expectations, giving us confidence that with further development we can achieve useful vision”.

“The next big step will be when we commence implants of the full devices,” he said.


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In extreme crises, conservatism can turn to fascism. Here’s how that might play out

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5 movie "Back to the Future," Marty McFly (played by Michael J. Fox) travels in a time machine from the 1980s to the 1950s. When he tells people of the '50s he is from the '80s, he is met with skepticism.

1950s person: Then tell me, future boy, who's President of the United States in 1985?

This article first appeared at Salon.com.Marty McFly: Ronald Reagan.

1950s person: Ronald Reagan? The actor? [chuckles in disbelief] Then who's vice president? Jerry Lewis [comedian]?

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Who are the young people behind the Catalonia protest violence?

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The violent protests that have swept Catalonia over the jailing of nine separatist leaders have involved veteran anarchists and youthful troublemakers as well as outraged separatists, some of whom became radicalised only recently.

"I am 24, have a masters and a job and I never imagined myself setting fire to a barricade with my face masked," said one protester who gave her name only as Aida.

She has joined in protests every day since they erupted in the region after Spain's Supreme Court on Monday sentenced nine Catalan separatist leaders to up to 13 years in jail for sedition over a failed 2017 independence bid.

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Body language expert dissects the power dynamic at play in the iconic Nancy Pelosi photo

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Last week, President Donald Trump met with Democrats at the White House to discuss the way both sides could work to fix the President's mistakes in Syria. Democrats left the White House saying that the President had another meltdown during the meeting, which prompted Trump to claim Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was the one who had a meltdown. He then posted photos of Pelosi sitting quietly and another photo of Pelosi standing and pointing at him.

Body language expert Dr. Jack Brown posted the photo and gave his own analysis of what he believed was happening in the photo.

"When a person has little or no empathy — and/or when they're far from their emotional baseline, their ability to interpret how others will view an event becomes dramatically distorted," Brown explained Sunday. "Rarely has this behavioral axiom been better exemplified than last Wednesday at the White House."

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