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

Some are color blind. I am stereo blind.

Archive for May 2011

Arr— Avast with the “weird eye” Matey!

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Johnny Depp as buccanneer Jack Sparrow

Johnny Depp, starring actor in the latest 3D release of Pirates of the Carribbean, cannot see the special effects in the movie:

“.. Johnny Depp’s vision isn’t exactly shipshape, ‘I’m unable to see in 3-D. I can’t — my eyes don’t see in 3-D. I have a weird eye,’ Depp told Access Hollywood. ” [1]

“Weird eye” … “Lazy Eye”… How many adults have simply been conditioned to create our own miserable self-diagnosis due to gross lack of correct information and a wee touch of pride?

These terms belittle the problem and remove it from medical discussion. The correct term is “stereoblindness” due to any number of medical conditions that hinder binocular vision, like amblyopia and strabismus.

Depp explained further “It may come as a surprise to you, but I’ve never seen things normally—” (elicits a laugh) “— as normal people … because one of my eyes, you know, doesn’t see (waves left hand beside his face) very much.” View the interview here.

Depp’s “weird” eye is not deviating enough to reveal mis-aligned catchlights in any of his published photos. A catchlight falling on different parts of the iris of each eye is the most reliable visual indication of eye mis-alignment or strabismus.

My own photos, like Depp’s, do not reveal misalignment; and I did not think of myself as cross-eyed or strabismic until I was diagnosed in 2010. I was as reluctant as Depp to explain why. It was easier to keep it under the radar, even to myself.

My guess is Depp is either alternating and his misalignment is slight, like Keira Knightly, or his left eye has amblyopia. However, if he was patched like a pirate for amblyopia as a child, he didn’t mention it …

Thankfully, the 3D movies and other 3D media are exposing and increasing awareness of the many types of stereoblindness adults and children have experienced all their lives.

Hopefully Mr. Depp, who is known for his generosity, will be generous enough to himself one day to investigate exactly why his eye is “weird” and what he can do about it.

Perhaps he should start with purchasing the story of Sue Barry, who brilliantly describes her own 3D awakening in her fourties in her book, Fixing My Gaze. Sue was recently featured in Oliver Sack’s documentary, Imagine: The Man Who Forgot How to Read and Other Stories (3/4 starting at 11 min 30 sec), happily interacting with the very 3D in Depp’s film that he cannot see!

Then, he could visit an optometrist trained in developmental vision therapy for an eye exam to find out why his eye is “wierd..” Many adults are regaining vision in a “lazy” eye (amblyopia) through vision therapy, like my blogging friend “Strabbie”, who had measurable improvement after only 12 weeks:

So I’ve been chugging along with my vision therapy, and at my 12-week appointment, I had an eye evaluation by my optometrist. I am delighted to share that the subjective feeling I have, that my left eye is open and working, has been measured, and my left amblyopic eye which could see 20/30 corrected now sees 20/20 (+ or -) which means my left eye sees TWO LINES BETTER on the eye chart now! [2]

Kudos to Dr. Nathan Bonilla-Warford for posting here and on Facebook.

Pirate speak, courtesy of http://www.yarr.org.uk/talk/

To find out if this child is dressed for Halloween, or is patched for amblyopia, click here.

Written by Lynda Rimke

May 19, 2011 at 8:10 pm

Post BRAO Week 7: Settling into a new way of seeing

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I had a rough 6 week appointment, as the retinalogist was incredibly short and curt “You have dead tissue. You can’t do anything about it other than control the medical condition to perhaps prevent future occlusions. See you in 6 months.”

I prefer the medical term, ischemic, which simply means lacking blood supply. “Dead tissue” just sounds too final, like half my retina will now rot away inside my eye! The fact is, my rods and cones underneath the blood-deprived inner retinal layer are doing quite well, actively making abstract patterns which I see when I close my eyes, or in low light. They’ve been doing this since BRAO day 1. Yes, I will paint these patterns some day!

The swelling has gone down slightly and yielded a hair more central vision. But what a difference a hair more central vision can make— I can now see two eyes when I look at someone with just the affected eye, instead of a person’s right eye only. I expect another hair’s worth of gain and am hoping to be able to read with the affected eye in another six weeks. I can already read huge type fairly quickly, but nothing close to 20/20 on the eye chart.

What my brain can do with that hair of gain has been pretty cool. I mentioned before that my brain is patching together a complete visual field. In the last few weeks, the wrinkled area where my right vision ends and the left begins to fill in is smoothing out. When riding down the highway, guardrails are no longer disproportional and incomplete.

I routinely test for eye-teaming by covering and uncovering each eye while looking at an object to see if both eyes remain fixed on it, and by holding a finger close to my nose while looking at the object to see if the one finger becomes two. Almost always, I pass my test when I consciously make the effort to use both eyes, or when I simply think binocularity may be “happening”.

Inside the chicken coop, this poison ivy was easier to find!

I have been surprised to discover my eyes teaming on their own without conscious effort: first when I was trying to take a splinter out of my hand, then when I was cutting the grass with a riding mower and lastly when I was seeking and destroying poison ivy with weed-killer.

All three vision demanding activities are the result of my new diversion from vision therapy: the 5 acre homestead my husband and I bought in April that we are restoring this spring and summer, with the goal to move in and make it home by fall. Even if I had not had a branch retinal artery occlusion, I would have been taking a hiatus from vision therapy to work on this house and acreage. And, once we move, it will be almost an hour’s drive each way to resume therapy sessions.

Immersion in visually demanding situations where “where” is more important than “what” has been a goal of mine all along: break away from the newspaper and laptop and get out in the wide world and SEE. Frederick Brock states

An individual habitually maintaining strabismic posture may, for certain heightened perceptual demands, use binocular posture if the latter is necessary for the successful of the task.1

Finding “where” I left off cutting the grass to successfully guide myself on the riding mower to cut the next swath required “heightened perceptual demands.” Seeking and destroying the shiny and slightly bronzed three-leaved poison ivy amidst the rest of the grasses and weeds and bushes was also an intensively “where” oriented exercise, and using my vision to guide the stream of weed-killer even moreso.

My new quiet spot ...

Yesterday, one week after the retinalogist pronounced my tissue “dead,” I remarked to Patrick, as we were out for a drive in search of building materials “Wow, those trees seem really close to the road— they’re so tall!” I was surprised when Patrick said “They ARE close!” and suggested I was seeing them in 3D. I’m not certain, but they certainly were making an impact on me. I was feeling somewhat enveloped by their overhanging branches as we whizzed down the highway … wondering if they could fall over on the road on a windy day.

It was a good feeling.

1 Frederick W. Brock, “Lecture Notes on Strabismus” p6