Novel technologies are constantly under development for vision restoration in blind patients. Many of these emerging technologies are based on the projection of high intensity light patterns at specific wavelengths, raising the need for the development of specialized projection systems. Here we present and characterize a novel projection system that meets the requirements for artificial retinal stimulation in rats and enables the recording of cortical responses. The system is based on a customized miniature Digital Mirror Device (DMD) for pattern projection, in both visible (525 nm) and NIR (915 nm) wavelengths, and a lens periscope for relaying the pattern directly onto the animal's retina. Thorough system characterization and the investigation of the effect of various parameters on obtained image quality were performed using ZEMAX. Simulation results revealed that images with an MTF higher than 0.8 were obtained with little effect of the vertex distance. Increased image quality was obtained at an optimal pupil diameter and smaller field of view. Visual cortex activity data was recorded simultaneously with pattern projection, further highlighting the importance of the system for prosthetic vision studies. This novel head mounted projection system may prove to be a vital tool in studying natural and artificial vision in behaving animals.
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