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

Some are color blind. I am stereo blind.

Archive for October 2012

Dance of the Red and Green

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I was inspired today to open my desk drawer of vision therapy tools and dust off my red-green anaglyph glasses. Why? Because NOVA recently featured Sue Barry in their “Secret Lives of Scientists” program, and put out this wonderful teaser of Sue on her trampoline, grinning and staring at a Marsden Ball with her anaglyph glasses as “Clue #1: A Trampoline, a Ball and Hipster Glasses?!”

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Oi! Those glasses have been put away for about a year. I recall the craziness of what I saw through them after losing the vision in half my right retina as almost unbearable, but that was when my vision loss was still fresh. I drove myself crazy with them, trying to get confirmation of some fusion in the lower half of my vision in what Dr. Leonard Press referred to as luster: a luminescent glow of combined red and green as seen by both eyes.

But instead of trying to “get luster,” today I am simply wearing them for a few hours and seeing what happens. Dr. Barry has inspired my curiosity!

My strabby friend Sally is also partly responsible for the inspiration to dust off and try again. She also took a hiatus and discovered vision therapy works, and blogged about it. So I got brave and put on the glasses.

As I suspected, when I really want to focus on, examine and “see” something, the thing is solid green. This is because the central vision in my “red” right eye was compromised by the BRAO. So, while eating lunch, my lunch went green when I scraped my bowl for the last bits of Indian food. Reading also was solid green to the right of and including each word I was reading.

I also expect and do see red on the extreme right, where I still have retina and peripheral vision in my right eye that my left eye does not see (because it is blocked by the bridge of my nose)

However I am surprised by the amount of red dancing around, just to the left of where I am writing and all underneath. It comes and goes in split seconds, but it is there, like a dancing sunbeam.

This is more red than I expected. I’ve been pretty certain my left eye was thoroughly suppressing my half-blind right eye ALL the time, because I see no indication of my right eye’s blind condition. I expected a solid-green confirmation of my half blind eye’s total non-use. Instead, I am using both eyes constantly!

This explains the very rare and thrilling experiences of magic that just “happen” on occasion. If sheer thrill could be made empirical, I would bet my bottom dollar the magic is stereo vision. At some point, I will devote an entry to my “sightings” which I record on my iPhone just after each happens.

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My most recently “sighting” occurred after finishing a plein air painting session during Paint Oglebay. I worked a solid three hours trying to catch and record a sunlit path in watercolor. As I hauled myself and my gear back up the trail, I felt brain-drained but happy, and said to myself about my empty-headedness “This is when I see stereo.” Instantly, the leaves under my feet appeared cupped. I stopped and enjoyed a hundred little leaf sculptures that were more real than I could imagine. I didn’t need or want to touch them, just look at them in this new reality. Then, slowly, I resumed walking. The movement of the delicate weeds on either side of the path appeared fairy-like. I became completely immersed and enchanted by the world under my feet with sculpted leaves and waving fronds … all moving in what Dr. Sue Barry calls “palpable space.” How can things feel so grounded and yet moving? It was like the best sort of movie depicting a fantasy world with tangible magic in the air. Unforgettable!

Shortly after this experience, I made an appointment for an eye exam with my Developmental Optometrist who had given me 6 months of vision therapy in 2010-11. I haven’t had my eyes examined since the BRAO occurred 18 months ago for reasons mostly financial and partly emotional. I’m now committed to biting the bullet!

I hope to determine whether some vertical prism in the right lens will help my right eye to see more, and improve my chances of gaining some stereo in my central vision. My optometrist had used vertical prism in my first appointment just after the BRAO, and my ability to focus on the Brock string was dramatically improved. Time to find out if an investment is in the cards.

I do have at least one cheerleader: that grinning scientist with a secret who encouraged me in a May 10, 2011 comment on my BRAO post on the Vision Therapy social network Sovoto:

Dear Lynda – brave lady,

    I’m sorry the retinal specialist had such bad news, but the brain can do amazing things.  With vision, we take current sensory input and combine it with past experience and expectation so, while part of the retina may be dead, how the brain will re-interpret your remaining visual input is an open question.  You may see better than the dead tissue would suggest…  If you learn to see in 3D in the lower half of your visual field, perhaps the brain will “fill in” that information to some extent in the upper half.  In other words, you’ll have a richer view of the upper visual field than predicted.  With your resilience and powers of observation, things could be better than the retinal specialist suggests.

    Best,
    Sue

You can link to all the Secret Life of Scientist clips of Dr. Sue Barry here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/secretlife/scientists/susan-barry/

Postscript: at the end of writing this blog post, the dancing red and green have calmed down at times into into a blended red and green that is neither red nor green but lighter, yellower shades of each. Maybe I’m getting some “anti-suppression therapy” happening! One can always hope!