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

Some are color blind. I am stereo blind.

Archive for the ‘anti-suppression exercises’ Category

Relax. Let go. Give your brain permission.

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I’ve been following this VT patient’s progress reports with interest. Today’s post “Stop trying so hard and just SEE” mentions a common hurdle to diverging our eyes, the ability to RELAX those rogue eye turn-in muscles! “Stop LOOKING” my VT would often say. LOOKING to isolate something normally fixates both eyes on an object, or in my case, unconsciously fixates one eye while turning in and suppressing the out-of-alignment image of the other. “Soften your gaze” was another frequent VT exhortation.

1218randotLast week, random dots did the trick of NOT LOOKING for this VT patient, and I think I understand why. The randomness of the thing viewed eliminates the worry about getting a “right” answer, and therefore is less stressful than “Is the elephant or the fly popping out for you?” which can trigger frantic LOOKING.

Randomness is the opposite of representation, therefore the brain lets go of the need to comprehend and interpret an object. As an artist who strives to accurately represent objects, a good dose of randomness may be exactly what my brain needs to stop trying so hard.

This is why, for me, letting go also requires giving myself permission to allow a new way of seeing to emerge, to be visually open-minded.

I’m rejoicing that random dot stereograms are working for this patient to overcome her eye turn-in along with the many awesome mind-opening exercises her Vision Therapist is tailoring to wake up her brain.

By letting go and giving herself permission to see a new way, her world is opening up into the third dimension I long to experience.

 

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Brock Exercise Notes

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June 27 – afternoon. my first time to Brock in a long long time. I was amazed that I could start out at 12 inches. I was also amazed that when looking softly over the yellow center bead I could get the double image of the rear red bead.

June 28 – afternoon. After a tiring day at work. Again I was able to successfully see the yellow bead at 12″with an “X” through it. But not much took place after that.

July 4 – late morning. More rested. I was able right away to nail yellow Bead it 12 inches. Then briefly, I could back it off to about 18 inches. But this only lasted for a millisecond. Then the whole thing deteriorated.
My other observation is that the right string image is always stronger in front of the bead I am converging on and the left string image is completely strong behind it. This confirms what I felt initially after the BRAO that my brain is vertically aligning upper and lower images from both eyes.

0719brocklog July 9 – walked by my Brock string for the umpteenth time and told myself “Look— it will only take three minutes!” This time I decided not place the yellow bead at a specific place but just grab the first 12” mark near the front green bead and look. I was surprised that I could converge at 21”!

July 10 – late morning, right after massage. Right off the bat I got 25”. Then things got a little wobbly. I got interrupted, but I was able to regroup and see the bead at 20”. I would call that an improvement!

Later that day or the day after, I see my fingers for the first time in 3-D. They were interlaced on my lap, with tips popping out toward me, and looking physically SOLID. It was so awesome I unlaced my right hand and just stoked those solid looking fingertips and then re-laced them once or twice. “So this is what REAL fingers look like.”

It was an almost spiritual experience, making this new connection with my own hands, and so I gave thanks for this new vision I didn’t even ask for. Grace …

July 14 – evening, after a long day on the road. Only managed 15″ convergence and that with only half the X: the right eye image of the string in front and left eye image of string in back of the center bead.
I decided after this poor “X” showing to pick blueberries for visual and emotional therapy. “Fast Cars” from U2’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb played in my head. It fit my anxious mood in a happy U2 sort of way. The tomato plants were begging to be tied in the garden behind me, and the piles of laundry and dirty dishes were waiting inside. It all made my head pop.
But, during that forever time picking, I thought “the whole diplopia experience isn’t needed in real life, so maybe a half an X is ok and a whole X is not the ultimate goal with me.” I know my eyes are converging with just that half an X …

July 16– 2:30 in the afternoon seems to be the best time. I once again was able to see the bead at 19” then things got wobbly. I also could not get myself to see the red bead. But after that, a quick second attempt to see the yellow be succeeded at 24 inches. Doing this more frequently definitely has its advantages.

July 19– 8am just before headed out to my landscaping job, I decide a 10-second “goose” before a visually demanding day would be a good thing. I converged and diverged easily between the near green bead at 8″ and the yellow at 15″ — this is a first.

Seven brief sessions in three weeks, not 21 or more. 3x day is my goal …

Even with only those seven brief sessions, a couple of amazing things happened at my optometry appointment this afternoon. But that’s another blog post!

Sightings in 2012

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SIGHTINGS in 2012

Dr. Leonard Press, in his blog Vision Helps states that

“stereopsis is a quale of binocular vision that immeasurably enriches our daily lives.”

Throughout 2012, I recorded my own 3D qualia in scribbles in notebooks and texts to my iPhone and iPad, and on my homesteading album:

120129qualebush

January 29
“I delight over the extruding branches of the two, snow covered honeysuckles in the evening light. I am so entranced I walk around each bush two times.”

February 5th
On my homesteading album, I wrote “I appreciate how I can use the balance board while doing dishes. It combines a core work-out with vision-therapy-enhanced ability to see 3D, as both sides of my brain are working at balance and therefore work more readily at bringing both eyes into play. Yes, I’m still leaving flatland. I never saw the hollow insides of soap bubbles before!

February 8th
Felt my eyes coming together on an apricot as I held it about 8″ from my nose. It was highly defined and inhabiting space. Later, as I rinsed a pan, the front edge appeared to be 3D.”

March 21st
In my homesteading album, I wrote “A very 3D bramble reaches out to me this morning.”

bramble120321

April 4th
I practiced physiological diplopia with the doorstop that is in the middle of the bathroom wall at Hennis, and “while looking at my fully extended finger, I continued to see two doorstops.

“Then, as I was washing my hands, I almost fell into the sink— it was so deep and the faucet so high!”

May 11th in my garden
“I bend to smell dames rocket. Then the onions pop!

September 2nd
“In the Hennis bathroom, I discover I can ‘hold’ the door bumper double image and track my finger with both eyes from 6” to arm’s length at intervals and see the distance between the double doorstop image widen and narrow. Then … I did it smoothly, like a trombone! No big stereo faucet pop after, probably because I was consciously looking for it.”

September 7th with one of our dogs
“Onslo’s nose becomes very long and 3D while we are relaxing on the couch.”

September 28th at Paint Oglebay
“After painting and lunch I tiredly hike up the hill feeling brain-drained and empty-headed, and thought ‘This is how I feel when I see 3D.’ Suddenly all the dead leaves popped out in sculpted beauty and the fronds of undergrowth along the path were moving independently and dancing in their individual spaces as I walked through, very very slowly, like a queen in fairy land.

December 30th
“While in the kitchen pouring, it feels like two eyes see. This is happening more often with space-intensive kitchen tasks.

Later, the folds of the shower curtain fill the space in front of me while I am seated as usual. This is the second or third time the curtain has taken on volume in the semi darkness of the light from an electric candle, just before bedtime.”

December 31st
“In the morning, as I approach the seating area around the wood burner, the angles of the furniture look strange and abnormal. Patrick seems further away and his feet appear larger … Foreshortened more.”

As an artist trained to draw the human figure, foreshortening of arms or legs is rather formulaic for me:closer is drawn bigger and farther away is rendered smaller than the way I see it. However, two or three times this last year, I actually SAW it. When viewed with two eyes, the approaching hand becomes much larger and the receding feet much much smaller.

It’s an apparent exaggeration of what I consider to be reality, from my normal, monocular point of view.

—–

It could be that these sightings are merely “monocular depth perception cues.” I have described many monocular cues here, and even more cues and an excellent post on how they contribute to the “quale” of stereopsis can be discovered at Vision Helps with an awesome link to a computer rendition of kinetic depth cues added to a 2D image here:

However, the fact that these brief glimpses stop me in my tracks and cause me to grope for words to describe what I am seeing is evidence enough that something exceptional is going on, something beyond my normal monocular depth perception cues, something extraordinary, however esoteric it may be.

“… to experience a quale is to know one experiences a quale, and to know all there is to know about that quale.” —wiki

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?!”

Image

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.

Image

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!

Cat’s Ear and Coffee Cup

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I have commenced to sketch, as best I can, the various scenarios my brain morphs together. Today’s initial sketch for “The Physiological Diplopia Series” is called “Cat’s Ear and Coffee Cup”

One thing that has become of my leaving-flatland-goal + BRAO is Wonderland. Thanks to the three months of Vision Therapy I did have, plus lots of vision research and blogging, I am familiar with aspects of vision that I previously ignored: expanded peripheral vision, heightened motion parallax and physiological diplopia.

Of these three beautiful vision aspects, physiological diplopia is confirmation that my BRAO is not preventing both eyes from working together to look at the same thing at the same time in the same space. In my case, I experience it most 3-13″ or so from my nose, the same distance I was able to create diplopia with the Brock String before my BRAO.

Here is a diagram of this morning’s scenario. Instead of a bead on a string, I was staring at the tip of my cat’s ear just through the handle of my coffee cup which I was holding next to my face about 1:00 from the tip of my nose.

 

111206cat-cup-diag

Next to the diagram is my sketch of what I saw from each eyes and both eyes combined into a brain morph of right and left aspects:

 

The vertical hatching above the right eye cup is my BRAO. Note, when I am using both eyes, I cannot experience physiological diplopia where I have no right-eye vision (this is also true for stereo vision). In this case, in my 3rd sketch of both eyes looking, the top of the cup assumed the left-eye aspect.

The Wonderland experience was seeing my coffee securely held by an open shell spiral that my brain created when both eyes pointed at the tip of my cat’s ear! If I attempted to study the mirage too closely, it vaporized and the scene defaulted to the left-eye image. This is because my left eye has the superior central vision and therefore bears the “what” function of my vision.

I don’t see the brain morph most of the time. Normal people with stereo vision also do not see physiological diplopia unless they allow themselves to, by turning off their own brain suppression. I can’t vouch for how that happens; ask a Developmental Vision Therapist!

* “In an alternating esotropia the patient is able to alternate fixation between their right and left eye so that at one moment the right eye fixates and the left eye turns inward, and at the next the left eye fixates and the right turns inward. Where a patient tends to consistently fix with one eye and squint with the other, the eye that squints is likely to develop some amblyopia. Someone whose squint alternates is very unlikely to develop amblyopia because both eyes will receive equal visual stimulation.” [3]

 

In search of verification

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As blankets of clouds give way to bluer skies and the light grows stronger, I am checking my vision with my red-green glasses. I want to see some color mixing between the right and left eye to verify teaming.

the graphic designer's color wheel

Red and green light mix to create yellow, unlike red and green pigments that mix to create black, so I should be seeing yellow, or what Vision Therapists call “luster” in the areas that I believe are starting to develop 3D.

This is the color wheel that designers for the web and print media use. Four color printing presses and photographic papers use black, yellow, magenta and cyan inks or film layers to create all the colors we see. Magenta, yellow and cyan (a sky blue) are represented in the inverted triangle. Computer monitors and televisions mix red, green and blue to create all the colors of the rainbow, including white. Red blue and green are represented in the base down triangle.  Half way between red and green is yellow, a perfect mix of the two.

This morning, my white bathroom sink was bathed in soft sunlight. I photographed it through the red and green lenses of my analglyphic glasses and layered each photo at 50% over a white background in Adobe Photoshop. Then I started erasing where my right eye has vision loss. This is pretty much what I am seeing when I allow my right eye to dominate by suppressing the left eye when I fixate on the top of the bathroom fixture while wearing the red-green anaglyph glasses. My best educated guess it that I am experiencing normal correspondence with eyes aligned, but my brain is creating a map of right and left viewpoints because my brain is unable to suppress the left eye in the areas where my right eye is blind.

My unique analglypic view of things

The red area is highly unstable, as I can switch back to left-eye dominance and make it completely green. My goal is to make the red area yellow, a combination of both eyes pointing at the same place at the same time: the top of the bathroom fixture.

The elusive yellow “luster” didn’t happen, probably because I was trying too hard and thinking about it too much. My attempt using a finger to create physiological diplopia easily made two faucets when I converged on my finger about 5″ in front of my nose. What eluded me was the single faucet about 20″ away and two fingers at 5″ that would verify that I was diverging to point both eyes at the faucet.

The elusive divergence, of which I am slowly gaining ground on the Brock string, is what is needed to see 3D more than 5-12″ beyond my nose, which is my current maximum distance with confirmed eye teaming on the center bead of the string.

The cereal bowl that became 3D was 8-12″ under my nose. So I’m fairly certain my 3D experience was valid. On April 6th I had written:

This morning I had just vowed I wasn’t going to try anymore today, after nearly driving myself crazy with looking for anything and everything 3D since getting up an hour before.

I picked up my bowl and resumed eating my granola and BLAM!— the rim of the bowl looked different. I could tell I had both my eyes rooted to it’s outer edges. The rim looked larger somehow, and was slightly misshapen in the upper right part of it’s curve, probably due to the edge of my blind area. I just kept gazing at it in wonder, and something else appeared within a blink: I could see the space inside the bowl, hollowed out and tangible, with my spoon resting against the bottom.

UP. DOWN. BOTTOM. These are such abstract concepts to me … not things to be SEEN other than depicted on a flat surface. But I am seeing these and other words that describe WHERE in three dimensional space with an explosion of never before understood meaning.

3D dishwashing and weeding fall into a more gray area, as those distances were about 16-20″ … in all probability, what I was experiencing was normal correspondence with a map of both right and left viewpoints, similar to what is depicted in the photograph of the bathroom sink.

“Ship’s Log” of Uncertain Seas

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The real voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes -Marcel Proust [1]

Wednesday April 6 Is it really depth perception?
At breakfast, I see my cereal bowl rim with distortion from right eye, both eyes feel anchored on the rim, and then came a strong perception of SPACE … INSIDE the bowl with my spoon resting at THE BOTTOM of it. Later I distorted the rim of my coffee cup with the same “eye teaming.” It looks as if it had been marred on the potter’s wheel. The distortion disappeared when viewed with each eye separately.

That evening, the dishes were all done in what looked like 3D, with the soapy water appearing further away, DEEPER INSIDE the sink … I decide to talk about it while it is happening. “I’m stere-oscoping!” I announce to Patrick in a sing-song voice “… the bowl is so big and NEAR as I wash it … and now I’ve made it small and FAR as I rinse … ” Was I really? Hope springs eternal.

Thursday April 7 OD&VT appointment or “Let’s see what we can see”

A visual field test of right eye reveals no vision in upper right half, save one small area above the dividing line on the nasal side of my central vision.

Visual field test, right eye

April 7th visual field test, right eye

(My Vision Therapy is always with my Developmental Optometrist. I had emailed her about my BRAO last week.)

Condolences are given and my OD/VT attempts to center-occlude my glasses over my right eye, to encouraging use of the left eye to strengthen it. I’m sure the expression on my face and direct protest that I was center occluding the left eye, not right, made her reconsider … “I’m fighting for my half-blind eye,” I explained. I do use my left almost all the time anyway and have no difficulty suppressing the right.

I share how I had restored my ability to “unsuppress” my right eye, and what I saw with the red green glasses when looking at a white wall (Dr. Press had suggested doing this in a comment to my April 1 blog post.) “I see total green on the top half of my vision and total red-orange on the bottom half.

“Could it be ‘left-eye over right-eye’ viewing that my brain has programmed?” I ask. She didn’t have a quick answer. (I’ve illustrated it in the image of my visual field test, above.) My fellow strabbie blogger, “Squinty” Josh, might guess that it’s a mega case of anomalous correspondence!

No 3D tests were done to verify my 3D breakfast bowl story. She made a comment that I was at step 5 before, and jumping to 20-something … she simply wasn’t sure what to do. I’m not surprised, as I never have done sequential anything well. I need to gulp the whole pie in order to understand any part of it. [2]

She took a long look at me on the Brock string, which looked the same way it does at home: both strings come into the bead, however the left eye nose-to-bead image (depicted to right) is weaker. Only one string goes out of the bead, as my blind right eye cannot see above the bead. Four and 10 base down prisms strengthened the left eye image in front of the bead and made it as clear as the right.

How my New Brock String appears

How my New Brock String appears to me

We work on the most basic part of my tranaglyph, which I can see completely if I turn it upside down. Right side up, the green upper right dot completely disappears. I need green on the bottom of my right-red visual field when viewing with red-green glasses.

Homework assignments are given on the tranaglyph and I’m to continue Hart Charts with left eye and new letter circling exercises, as well as eye control and thumb pursuits for the right.

We agree to bi-nasally occlude both right and left eyes as before to continue to strengthen peripheral awareness. She clarifies I am NOT using both eyes when I do this as either suppressed eye still turns to my nose behind the veil. I was hoping I was gaining some sort of peripheral fusion. Apparently not.

We agree to schedule an appointment in 3 months if my right eye vision improves.

Friday-Saturday April 7 & 8
Distraction

I’m pretty discouraged and don’t attempt much of anything, other than distorting cups, plates and bowls under my nose. I’m also majorly distracted because we finally agree with Freddie Mac on a price for the 5-acre foreclosed homestead we had won a bid on … way back in early February!

Sunday April 9 Renewal
I socialize and spend the afternoon at the homestead in left eye mode. My right eye looks turned in at every glance in the mirror. After visiting with my mother-in-law at the nursing home, I manage to still find the will to do my favorite phys-dip exercise in the ladies’ room, using the door stop on the wall. I can still make physiological diplopia both ways, converging and diverging. My creature even tilts his head back at me, just as always!

My inner kid wants Wonderland again!

Phys-dippity-do!

That evening, I walk the old yard and notice the grass at my feet looks grassier … each blade seems more distinct somehow in the evening light. I refuse to pursue the possibility of 3D and get down to the task of pulling bitter cress from the flower bed. It’s a small plant with white flowers that must be pulled before it throws seed everywhere in a couple of weeks.

I enter my usual zen-weeding-woman state, and it seems that both eyes engage, and the flower tops look TALL. I keep breathing and weeding, but my hand is not connecting as easily to the base of each weed. I check for eye teaming by covering and uncovering. Both eyes are fixed on the same small white flower, first one flower, then another. The bittercress continues to fill vertical space in a new way, even when I blink.

Was it really 3D, or simply weeding for the first time with my left eye instead of my right?

Later on, at Hibachi Japan, I fail to catch one piece of shrimp … of course! Perhaps if the chef had tossed it from below

Monday April 11 Surprise!
I find a small piece of shrimp in my purse!