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

Some are color blind. I am stereo blind.

Archive for March 2011

The trouble with “trouble”

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… people are really not worthy of all that trouble.

This was said by an eye surgeon to his orthoptist (vision therapist) friend over 100 years ago, after the friend had demonstrated the techniques he used with his 8-year-old strabismic sister that had enabled her to see 3D. [1]

Had my parents understood what I was seeing at age two or eight, they would have taken “all that trouble” to align my eyes. They did just that for my teeth.

In 1967, Dad sought out a new state-of-the-art practice called orthodontics that did not involve pulling my adult teeth, which had erupted like pop corn, overlapping in places. He did this because he has lost some of his. In his day, there were no orthodontists. If your teeth were crowded, a dentist pulled a few to make room, and that was that.

My jaws were gradually widened instead. For several months when I was 8 and 9 years old, my mother would take a small wire key and turn a crank on a bridge-like device that was cemented to two upper molars on either side. The crank turned a gear to widen the bridge, like a torture rack. This strange bedtime ritual made my nose tickle. But it was worth it because over several months my palette widened, creating space for my overlapping teeth.

The "night brace"

For several years after that, I wore a night brace to continue to widen my upper and lower jaws. Rubber bands pulled my lower jaw forward, closing my 1/2″ overbite so that my lower lip no longer printed itself with my upper teeth. My digestion improved, and my numerous canker sores faded away. Indeed, wearing the ugly brace for 3 years and dealing with hooking up flying rubber bands was totally worth “all that trouble.”

I was in “the program” 11 years …

But alas, during that time, my parents could not know my eyes were crooked. There was no elementary school screening for stereo blindness in the 1960s (and sadly, there still isn’t.) Even the optometrists who prescribed my glasses from age 10 on did not report my alternating esotropia during occlusion to my parents. I wonder why?

I wonder why orthodontics, a costly and troublesome program to straighten teeth is widely accepted and embraced by parents and pediatricians, and orthoptics (vision therapy) remains unknown, even though the practices to straighten eyes have existed for over 100 years with life-changing benefits that far outweigh the benefits of straight teeth, in my opinion.

Thankfully, interest in orthoptics and vision therapy is growing: Sue Barry has published her success at gaining stable 3D vision in her book Fixing My Gaze. Many are seeking out vision therapy because of her story.

Bloggers are emerging to publicize their vision therapy journeys. Aside from myself, “Squinty Josh” documents his therapies in great detail, “Strabby” contrasts her past experiences with ophthalmology and new progress with vision therapy and “The Life and Times of Stella” eloquently relates how vision therapy is transforming the vision and life outlook of a young toddler. We have all enjoyed promotion by Dr. Leonard Press through the College of Optometrists in Vision Development via “The Vision Help Blog”

Interest is growing in stereo blindness due to new 3D viewing technology. Recently MacNews published an article on the stereo blind titled “3D TV — not everyone can see (literally) what the hype is about”

The 3D film is moving from movie theaters to home theaters, TVs and game consoles. Soon, home video will be filmed in 3D. No one will want to go back to 2D; how limiting would that be?

No one chooses limitation.

Society’s disdain for things 2D will only empower the stereo blind to better negotiate for their own opportunity to see 3D in real life.

Let the revolution of the stereo blind begin! WE ARE WORTH IT!

Written by Lynda Rimke

March 22, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Sue Barry teaches the Brock String (Part 1)

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My new toy has only three beads

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells.” — Dr. Seuss

I posted a link to a 9 minute youtube video of Sue Barry’s demonstration of the Brock String exercise on my last progress report. But I doubt everyone took advantage of that link.

There are some incredible epiphany moments that Sue shares that are identical to my own. Sue was, and I am, an alternating esotrope for over 40 years. Until she was 48, Sue used to see out of one eye at a time, and the non-seeing eye would turn in. She did this her whole life, until she began to work with the Brock string and teach herself what normal people learn as infants.

Read the transcript below to understand why, after five weeks of vision therapy, I am out-of-my-mind excited about graduating to a new career with the Brock String at age 52. It’s never too late!

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Sue begins by saying her developmental vision therapist, Theresa Ruggerio “taught me how to aim the two eyes at the same place at the same time … what I first did was use a technique called the Brock String, developed by my hero, Frederick W. Brock …

“He was brilliant, an absolute genius. He understood strabismus better than anybody else and he developed techniques for it, and he published a lot in Optometric Weekly in the 1940s, which is why nobody knows of him. But I do have copies of all his papers …”

Sue hands out strings with only one bead to the audience and instructs them to hold the string straight out from the nose, with the bead at the far end, next to the outstretched hand.

“How many beads to you see?” Sue asks.

“One.” The whole audience answers.

“Go-ood!” Sue offers warm positive feedback and the audience chuckles.

“How many strings do you see?” She asks with just a touch of orneriness.

The audience is mostly silent, then you hear ” … two.” … scattered answers from the three braver folks.

“You see two strings!” Sue confirms. “Why? Because you’re fixated on the bead; your two eyes are aiming at the bead. The bead is falling on the same central part of both retinas. But the string, which is in front of the bead, is falling on non-corresponding points of the two retinas … It’s not in the same plane as the bead. It’s in front of the bead, and so you see two images of it.

“The right eye image is the string image on your left and the left eye image is the string image on your right.

“Now take the bead and put it in the middle of the string. … What do you see now?”

(Multiple answers, some saying the strings are crossing)

Susan Barry points to the Brock String "X" made by two eyes fixated on the middle bead.

“So you might see something like this …” (see photo)

“What you’ve got here is the line of sight of both eyes. This is giving you the feedback to know where your two eyes are pointing.

“Now if you’re strabismic like I was, you don’t aim your two eyes at the same point at the same time. For me to learn how to do that (which is an automatic response that most people develop within the first six months of life … I did not) … I need to learn where the two eyes are pointing. How am I going to know where they’re pointing? The Brock String gave me the feedback to know where the two eyes are pointing.

“This to me was (she’s speechless for a second or two) … fantastic. It was just fantastic feedback.

“It wasn’t easy for me to do what you are doing now. What I had to do was start with the bead right about an inch from my nose, where people who are cross-eyed do have a little binocularity … and so I would start at what Brock would call the centration point where I could actually make a normal convergence movement and see one bead and the “X” shape around it.

“And then I would move the bead back a little, and again get the double (string) images and keep moving it back, and back and back, to develop a range where I could make normal movements of my eyes: diverge them for looking further, converge them for looking close. The bead and the string gave me the feedback to know.

“Initially when I moved the [bead] back, the left eye image of the string was going right into the bead, and the right eye image was faint, and somewhere (she waves her right arm) in the wrong place. And now I had the feedback to know how to move my eyes to get them both pointing at the bead. (She brings both hands together and touches her fingers to emphasize the centration point.)

“And then … I didn’t work with just a little short string. Eventually I graduated to an 11 foot string with five beads …

It took me a year to get to the point where I could do five feet, using three different beads. It took me a year to master that, because my whole life had been directed toward turning in one eye and suppressing this. So to get this new way of seeing, it look a long time.”

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Now you know what I’ll be doing every day that I can for the next year, and for 5-10 minutes a day for the rest of my life, along with other vision therapy exercises to widen my gaze and improve all my eye-brain connections.

I’ve been at it two weeks, and can see a bead from 4-7″ with that marvelous “X” … and I am working on using two beads, one at 4 or 5″ and one at 7 or 8″, to converge and diverge.

3D gaming and esophoria risks

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In a Wall St. Journal article last Friday, it was reported that a professor in the Department of Ophthalmology, Osaka University Medical School, Japan will be studying whether children with esophoria, the tendency for the eyes to turn inward, will become at risk of more turn-in with prolonged 3D gaming.

Takashi Fujikado, a visual-science professor at Osaka University’s Graduate School of Medicine, is starting research on whether children afflicted with esophoria, who are constantly making extra effort to prevent their eyes from becoming cross-eyed, may find it difficult to return the eyes to normal position after watching 3-D images for a long period of time.

When a 3-D image pops out from a screen, it draws the eyes inward to focus on an object that appears closer. This may affect children six years old and younger because their eyes, still under development, are more sensitive to such stimuli, he said.

Children with such a condition are rare but it is difficult to determine how many there are, Mr. Fujikado said, because esophoria doesn’t necessarily have symptoms.[1]

I have a hunch that what Dr. Fujikado is looking for is whether the esophoria may develop into an esotropia, where an eye constantly or alternately turns inward. Alternating esotropia is the strabismus I mysteriously developed as a child, unknown to my parents and undetectable in photographs.

Visitors try Nintendo's 3DS players at Nintendo World 2011. —Bloomberg News

Esophoria is not a form of strabismus. It is “A muscle condition in which, when both eyes are open, each eye points accurately at the target. However, upon covering one eye the covered eye turns inwards. Also known as over-convergence.”[2]

Esophoria can be picked up during an eye exam with a cross-cover test that breaks fusion. Watch the differences between exotropia and exophoria here. With esotropia and esophoria, the deviating eye would snap back into alignment from the nose, not the ear. (Note the extreme solution of surgery is for tropias of a certain kind that cannot be corrected with vision therapy or orthoptics.)

Unlike esotropia, fusion is possible (with esophoria) and therefore diplopia (or seeing double) is uncommon.[3]

Donald J. Getz, OD, FCOVD, FAAO explains another sign of esophoria [4]

“… a child with esophoria sees things smaller than what they actually are. In order to see an object properly, it is necessary to make the object larger. The only means at the disposal of the child to make it larger is to bring it closer. Eventually, the child is observed with his head buried in a book… ”

Photograph: Frank Baron