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Intra-oral device helps blinded Marine to discern shapes.

The Washington Post (7/21, Caputo) reports that “a special ‘lollipop,’ a device that uses” the “tongue to stimulate” the “visual cortex and send sensory information to” the brain, is helping Marine Cpl. Mike Jernigan, who lost both of his eyes in a roadside bomb attack in Iraq, to discern shapes. The “intra-oral device, or IOD…is an inch-square grid with 625 small round metal pieces” that “is connected by a wire to a small camera mounted on a pair of sunglasses and to a hand-held controller about the size of a BlackBerry.” Images are sent by the camera to the IOD, “which transmits a low-voltage pulse to Jernigan’s tongue.” With training, Jernigan “has learned to translate that pulse into pictures.” Optometrist Amy Nau, OD, “who is researching the effectiveness of the device at the University of Pittsburgh,” explained, “It’s kind of like Braille that you use with your fingers.” Dr. Nau added, “Instead of symbols, it’s a picture, and instead of your fingertips, it’s your tongue.” The IOD, called “the BrainPort vision device…is manufactured by Wicab.”