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

Some are color blind. I am stereo blind.

Archive for the ‘analglyph glasses’ 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.



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?!”


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.


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.


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!

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

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!


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!

More 3D, and a better prognosis

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I have a very good report, and there is no way to keep it short!

Yesterday’s appointment with the retina specialist gave me hope for the first time. The damaged retina is still getting enough blood supply, and so it may have a chance to heal. This is a far better prognosis than last week, when the resident ophthalmologist who saw me in ER and also two days later simply shook her head “no” with a long sad face, saying a 5 second delay in the artery to the fovea, as revealed by the angiogram, was not enough blood supply to prevent permanent damage.

fluorescent angiogram of BRAO

My fluorescent angiogram showing the artery to central vision filling in 7-10 seconds later, but still providing vital blood supply

Nothing much has changed in the size and shape of the brown shade pulled over this eye, but I now know that it will take about 3 months for the swelling to go down completely. I was also told there should be some improvement by my next appointment in 6 weeks.

Glory! So many folks have been praying and thinking of me. This great news is a tremendous blessing and I am grateful and truly humbled again by the all of the good thoughts and prayers for healing. They have not always been answered with “Yes” and so it has been hard for me to even believe in “Maybe.” But now I believe. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

This means I am still on the road to 3D vision! In fact, the built-in sun visor on my right eye may even help me toward that goal!

First, I am forced to use my weaker, left eye in order to see anything completely: to read, write and to drive. A part of vision therapy strategy is to even the eyes out in skill level, so that they can team. My left eye is making rapid gains!

Second, my brain is doing new stuff. I believe it’s in a state of greater plasticity, simply because I cannot use the main eye-gate to the brain I have been using all my remembered life.

My plasticity has grown through these alternative ways of seeing:

This monocular method has the greatest acuity, and was all I had at the hospital. It was my alternating-esotropic brain’s first choice.

But when I got into wide-open sky space the evening I left the hospital, I felt tangibly blind. Whole sky was absent to my right. It was so unsettling I vowed to use both eyes somehow, ASAP!

I walked the hospital hall this way and managed to see enough feet and cart bottoms to not crash into anybody. With great effort, I managed to read the large letters on the bulletin boards by looking just above the letters.

I also patch when Patrick drives down the highway, just to give the left eye a breather and look for any improvements. So far, I still only see the lane to the left, with center and right lanes occluded. Whole trucks disappear along with all the sky. Did I say driving feels un-nerving?

Partial suppression is the new thing my brain has done on it’s own these last few days, thanks to my vow to use both eyes, and some consistent work.

I started by putting on the bi-nasal occluded glasses, which revealed the blind area again because partially occluding the left made the right eye image fire up in my brain.

The next day, I removed the right occlusion. Gradually, after a couple of days of wearing the glasses with center-left occlusion for a few hours to rest my dog-tired left eye, I could see the blind area without the glasses. Amazingly, the blind area began to fill with input from the left eye, leaving only a band of blurriness across my central vision, and not the total tan sun-visor image my right eye sees. At first, it was light fixtures in ceilings. Now it’s just about anything, however, there is a blurry band at the lower edge of my blindness that remains. It wrinkles my central vision like a layer of unstable cellophane.

When I tested myself with red green glasses on a white wall, the top half of my vision was green and the lower half was … red!

Sometimes, when I occlude the right eye, the left eye stays fixed, and sometimes it jumps. So, instead of true binocularity, this is more like patched-together left-over-right viewing.

However, my eyes ARE in alignment at times, because the patched in area vertically lines up with the area I can see under the cellophane band with the right eye.

I get around the house better in this new left-top, right-bottom mode. It has become the new default mode when I move about; my brain does it automatically.

At times least expected, I am starting to SEE things 3D. I’ve found I can’t look at a thing and make it 3D, but when I give up sometimes it just happens.

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.

“I want you to think WHERE and not just WHAT” was one of the first things my vision therapist coached me to do, when she gave me my center-occluded glasses. As an esotrope, I clearly understood my need to let go of WHAT, but had no concept of WHERE.

Now it shimmers under my nose when I least expect it, and vanishes like a fairy. But when it happens, adjectives that describe WHERE become an epiphany.

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.