Wide-eyed Wonder: an artist's musings on three-dimensional vision

Some are color blind. I am stereo blind.

Archive for February 2011

Small Breakthroughs

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I had my 8th vision therapy session and it rocked! I got to take home my very own Brock string to play with, and I’ve ordered my very own red-green (analglyphic) glasses and a sliding board with red-green films because (drum roll please) I got the squares and circles to show up like soldiers, AND the inner circle to float. Yeah, baby! I had to buy those two pieces of sliding plastic as a reward system, if nothing else! (I’ll get it’s name when I pick it up from the office.) Float? … for me, perceiving anything as floating is simply astounding!

An 8 year old focuses on the colored beads of the "Brock String" (which she should have placed on her nose, btw!) Lianne Milton/Napa Valley Register photos

And I finally got to play with the Brock string … THE string that I couldn’t make out when I was 20, and was given a thumbs down for vision therapy as a result. THE string that Sue Barry used to gain 3D seeing (excellent youtube video here) after only 3 weeks of 20 minute sessions. THE string I’ve made two home-made versions of, in failed attempts to rediscover that elusive fusional area we found with the Worth Four Dot Test back in December.

Perseverance has it’s rewards. I even found this neat youtube Brock string instructional video courtesy of Dr. Dominick M. Maino’s post on sovoto.com (They used two strings, but it is a close enough depiction of what the two eyes should see.)

During this therapy session, I was getting the X to flicker in and out when the bead was in my fusional area, about 4″ from my nose. As usual, I could not hold on to that X.

Then my therapist had me try it with the balance board … and the X held … easily! This is because balancing on the board involves both halves of my brain firing to all the muscles on both sides of my body to maintain balance. Somehow, while all that is going on, it opens up my brain to use both eyes at the same time (or perhaps it leaves little brain power left for the complex process of suppressing.) Balancing really worked for me! I even saw, and continued to see, the X a second time with red-green glasses, where one string was red and the other green.

As I stepped off the board and pulled off the Christmas glasses, my therapist held a pen in front of my face and asked me to look at it. “What do you see?” she asked and waited. “I see two of you!” was my reply. “Good!” was her enthusiastic answer. I could not look at her nose and get two pens, but I did accomplish the easier variation of a physiological dyplopia exercise when I saw two therapists. I now have this new exercise, and find myself trying it a couple of times a day with whatever is at hand. (A version of this exercise can be found at vision3d.com)

cando economy balance board

All this new fun after having a blast with my new balance board last week, which I ordered from overstock.com. Nothing like reading a Hart Chart while maintaining equilibrium. My eyes are learning precise control while my body is finding it’s very own center of gravity and aligning itself without my thinking about it.

How novel! How normal! Balancing is a great way to straighten out my head and neck, which is constantly turned to the left in order to view the world with my right eye better.

Vision Therapy is definitely getting more interesting than simply SUNY, the exercise my brain out-smarted.

Hidden Strabismus (or Unstable Eyes are Beautiful)

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There are strabismics who really look cross-eyed or wall-eyed with marked turn-in or turn-out … and then there are the strabismics who don’t get noticed, don’t need eye surgery, and may not even think they are strabismic until the right optician, optometrist or opthamologist takes the time to tell them so.

Strabismus can be missed or hidden
– if the eye turn-in or turn-out is not constant, but intermittent
– if the eye turn-in or turn-out alternates
– if the angle of turn-in or turn-out is small (positive or negative angle of 15° or less)

I’m not sure if Keira Knightley is aware that her eyes alternately turn out with a small negative angle, at least in many of her photographs. Most times her right eye is turned out, sometimes her left. Her eyes do align occasionally which makes her exotropia (turn out) intermittent and even more difficult to detect.

Pride and Prejudice © Universal Studios

Elizabeth and Jane get ready for the ball

Note in this first screen shot from my Pride and Prejudice DVD, the catchlights are in the same place in each of Jane’s eyes, but not in Elizabeth’s. The light should be contained within the iris of her left eye, but instead lands on the edge.

Pride and Prejudice © Universal Studios

Alternately, Elizabeth's right eye turns out

Keira has made the most of her unstable eyes through acting. Instead of becoming embarrassed and socially withdrawn, she took dance [1] to acquire needed grace and worked to look others in the eye while making her own eyes expressive. Her mother is a former actress and playwright and her father is an actor. At age 3, Kiera asked for an agent, to be like them. [2]

Keira had been diagnosed with dyslexia at 6, and worked to overcome her reading difficulties to get that agent: ”I was so single-minded about acting,” Knightley says. ”I drove myself into the ground trying to get over dyslexia and when I finished school I had the top grades.” [3]

With her apparent (to me) almost constant alternating exotropia, it’s no wonder she has struggled with reading! The problem might not be dyslexia. Most folks with exotropia also struggle with convergence insufficiency, a condition that can often be corrected through vision therapy to train the eyes to converge at near and far, and gain other reading skills.

Read one Doctor’s story here: visionhelp.wordpress.com

While one eye turns out, fusion to gain stereoposis (or binocular 3D vision) is impossible because the eyes are not aligned during turn out. When Keira was filmed on the cliff looking out, I wonder if her eyes momentarily aligned to see the palpable space … or if the vast landscape before her was as flat as a painting due to intermittent alternating exotropia?

Keira getting tethered in.

View from Stanage Edge

Written by Lynda Rimke

February 17, 2011 at 11:31 am

Learning to like “the hard way”

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My brain did it again: created a work-around in a heartbeat, defeating the entire purpose of the new exercise I did today during my office visit. I got to the bottom of the page and confessed “I’m cheating, you know…”

Moral judgments aside, the “cheat” was simply a short cut to bypass the complex mental process the exercise was demanding. Instead of looking at the symbol and doing the opposite action of what the symbol represented as asked, forcing my brain to create new processing pathways, I reinterpreted the symbol and simply did what MY new pet symbol said to do.

Here is the SUNY exercise, where the circle to the right or left of the line symbolizes which hand to tap the table with, and the circle over the line symbolizes a table tap with both hands.

This was pretty straightforward, until I was asked to look at the symbols and do the opposite. Very quickly, I learned to look at the space instead of the circle, and tap to empty spaces. Much much easier! (Give my creativity a high-five!)

I did the same thing on the balance board with directional arrows. When the task of doing the opposite was given, I simply assigned the meaning of the arrowheads to the arrow tails. How could I not?

I’ve done this sort of thing my entire life. I am gifted at Gestalt, that ability to see with an alternate way of seeing in order to solve problems. Gestalt works great for graphic design, and my clients love me and pay me good money for my Gestalt genius. “You’re so-o creative!” they say in awed tones.

Why make my brain work doing it the hard way? Because, if I don’t do what my genius Gestalt brain interprets as “the hard way”, the whole purpose of the vision therapy exercise is bypassed and whole sections of my brain remain dormant.

I can’t wrap my brain around this … seriously! I only have this vague sense that I am missing something in all my short cutting, something valuable, like the ability to do many things quickly without freaking out. I am in awe of anyone who is fast and ACCURATE at doing more than one thing at a time. That is so out of my league!

Wouldn’t that be something if I could multitask and be fast and accurate? Why, I could fix dinner AND carry on a friendly conversation for starters! I could drive AND listen to the radio …

I could even learn to use both my eyes at the same time. Wouldn’t that be something?

Written by Lynda Rimke

February 8, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Fun with Orthoptics

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I started orthoptics or vision therapy exercises just after posting about the matrix in my head about a month ago, when I felt my brain was over-riding the new, wider way of seeing I had been experiencing from the bi-nasal occluded glasses.

I am happy to report the eye exercises are contributing to a wider peripheral field again. I am definitely not bumping into doorways, furniture and counter-tops on a daily basis, as I was before wearing the glasses. So the glasses and the exercises are re-programming my peripheral vision to a wider field that seems to stay with me throughout the day.

In fact, when I drew what I saw through my glasses back in November for my post on “The Frame Game”, I was straining to see beyond the lens area to sketch what was in the edges of the frame while looking straight ahead. No more. I am easily seeing my glasses frame and stem pieces as I type!

vision therapy orthoptics: fusion

After touching the bridge of my nose during the "eye control" circuit, I pull Mr. Bird out to my fusional area

I credit this to daily eye control, smooth pursuit and peripheral vision building:

Eye control is simply following a finger or my feathered friend Mr. Bird around the bony perimeter of my eye sockets: brow, outside edge, center cheekbone and bridge of nose. I look pretty funny doing it, but this is the yoga stretch of eye exercises. My left eye now tracks as fluidly and smoothly as my right. Well worth 3-5 minutes a day!

Thumb Pursuits are an extension of the same. This time my unpatched eye tracks either my thumb or Mr. Bird with my arm fully extended. Mr. Rimke checks that my head is centered on my body and remains stationary. Then he asks me random questions while I maintain focus on Mr. Bird and keep the things in the room behind flowing in motion parallax. I should work each eye for 3-5 minutes.

The Nielson Chart is a new favorite. When I first started this exercise, I couldn’t see any of the circle to keep inside. Now I am seeing more and more of the circle from almost all of the plus sign fixation points. I also noticed my circles are near perfect in dim light. This is because peripheral vision increases when the eyes are more dilated. I use both right and left hands 2-3 times for 10-15 minutes.

Vision Therapy Orthoptics Nielson Chart

The Nielson Chart

More smooth pursuits are needed to perform Straw in the Target. I patch an eye and hold a tube out in front of me at various heights and depths with my patched side hand, and use my other hand to smoothly direct a straw towards the tube from the far edge of my peripheral vision to a smooth insertion into the tube. 5 minutes with each eye and different diameter tubes constitutes total workout.

I have also been given two motor control exercises which I am going to pursue more aggressively after another week or two of trigger point shoulder therapy to unlock and heal the muscles surrounding my rotator cuff. (Note: this is my idea, not my vision therapist’s.) Right now the Randolph Shuffle and Angels in the Snow are a bit too painful. Last week, I did master the shuffle sequence and can change it on demand.

I will have one more week of additional in office tests and orthoptic exercises, and then we will evaluate at my first 8-week mark. I have less to show for my first 8 weeks because it took us four weeks to find any semblance of a fusional area. I have not begun any fusion exercises, and may not for a few more weeks. I do try and check that hard-won fusional area every now and then, and seem to see lo-ong, “E.T.” fingers in 3D, but little else at this point: not even Mr. Bird!

I must be patient! But, oh— to be a 4 month old learning fusion and convergence naturally, during feeding time!

“The illuminated jet bib feeding system” can be found at http://www.thinkgeek.com/geek-kids/1-3-years/c682/ Check out those flashing lights! Maybe I could keep my nose centered if I wore one of these!