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

Some are color blind. I am stereo blind.

Archive for the ‘binasal occlusion’ Category

“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.

Fun with Orthoptics

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I started orthoptics or vision therapy exercises just after posting about the matrix in my head about a month ago, when I felt my brain was over-riding the new, wider way of seeing I had been experiencing from the bi-nasal occluded glasses.

I am happy to report the eye exercises are contributing to a wider peripheral field again. I am definitely not bumping into doorways, furniture and counter-tops on a daily basis, as I was before wearing the glasses. So the glasses and the exercises are re-programming my peripheral vision to a wider field that seems to stay with me throughout the day.

In fact, when I drew what I saw through my glasses back in November for my post on “The Frame Game”, I was straining to see beyond the lens area to sketch what was in the edges of the frame while looking straight ahead. No more. I am easily seeing my glasses frame and stem pieces as I type!

vision therapy orthoptics: fusion

After touching the bridge of my nose during the "eye control" circuit, I pull Mr. Bird out to my fusional area

I credit this to daily eye control, smooth pursuit and peripheral vision building:

Eye control is simply following a finger or my feathered friend Mr. Bird around the bony perimeter of my eye sockets: brow, outside edge, center cheekbone and bridge of nose. I look pretty funny doing it, but this is the yoga stretch of eye exercises. My left eye now tracks as fluidly and smoothly as my right. Well worth 3-5 minutes a day!

Thumb Pursuits are an extension of the same. This time my unpatched eye tracks either my thumb or Mr. Bird with my arm fully extended. Mr. Rimke checks that my head is centered on my body and remains stationary. Then he asks me random questions while I maintain focus on Mr. Bird and keep the things in the room behind flowing in motion parallax. I should work each eye for 3-5 minutes.

The Nielson Chart is a new favorite. When I first started this exercise, I couldn’t see any of the circle to keep inside. Now I am seeing more and more of the circle from almost all of the plus sign fixation points. I also noticed my circles are near perfect in dim light. This is because peripheral vision increases when the eyes are more dilated. I use both right and left hands 2-3 times for 10-15 minutes.

Vision Therapy Orthoptics Nielson Chart

The Nielson Chart

More smooth pursuits are needed to perform Straw in the Target. I patch an eye and hold a tube out in front of me at various heights and depths with my patched side hand, and use my other hand to smoothly direct a straw towards the tube from the far edge of my peripheral vision to a smooth insertion into the tube. 5 minutes with each eye and different diameter tubes constitutes total workout.

I have also been given two motor control exercises which I am going to pursue more aggressively after another week or two of trigger point shoulder therapy to unlock and heal the muscles surrounding my rotator cuff. (Note: this is my idea, not my vision therapist’s.) Right now the Randolph Shuffle and Angels in the Snow are a bit too painful. Last week, I did master the shuffle sequence and can change it on demand.

I will have one more week of additional in office tests and orthoptic exercises, and then we will evaluate at my first 8-week mark. I have less to show for my first 8 weeks because it took us four weeks to find any semblance of a fusional area. I have not begun any fusion exercises, and may not for a few more weeks. I do try and check that hard-won fusional area every now and then, and seem to see lo-ong, “E.T.” fingers in 3D, but little else at this point: not even Mr. Bird!

I must be patient! But, oh— to be a 4 month old learning fusion and convergence naturally, during feeding time!

“The illuminated jet bib feeding system” can be found at http://www.thinkgeek.com/geek-kids/1-3-years/c682/ Check out those flashing lights! Maybe I could keep my nose centered if I wore one of these!

“The Matrix” in my head

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You’re here because you know… feel…
that there’s something wrong with the world…
like a splinter in your mind…

Do you know what I’m talking about?

The Matrix.
What is it?

It is everywhere…
it is the world that has been pulled over your eyes
to blind you from the truth.

"The Matrix" ©Warner Bros.

This morning, in broad daylight, I body-slammed into the right side of a doorway, then over-corrected and bumped the left side on my way through. I turned around and looked at the door with my binasal-occluded glasses and said out loud “What was THAT?!”

“The Matrix” in my head is reprogramming itself to ignore the peripheral vision I first saw with the binasal-occluded glasses, that’s what. I’m running into a law of diminishing returns. It’s been weeks since I first giggled like a kid in wonder because I was so newly aware of the optic flow of the doorway going by as I walked through it. It’s been weeks since I’ve felt I was in a movie or video game while wearing the glasses and seeing motion parallax in action. I’ve gotten used to ignoring whatever is not directly in front of me, even with the occluded glasses.

How to keep seeing that heightened reality of the doorway when the psychological novelty of seeing for the first time has worn off? That is my new big question.

Maybe the answer is to wear the glasses a little less, to get the novelty to kick in again.

The larger answer is this: I need to work more consistently at widening my gaze both with and without the special glasses; to create a habit that, after days and weeks of conscious application, will become a part of me without thinking.

I’ve learned to correct my slouch while driving this way, and learned to squat to pick things up and save my back, so I should be able to learn how to maintain peripheral awareness, use my left eye more, make my eyes track better, etc. just by consciously and consistently making myself do these things more often than not.

That’s the training part. Neo went through training, lots of training.

Why do my eyes hurt?

You’ve never used them before.
Rest, Neo. The answers are coming.

My eyes do “hurt” for a bit, after I pushed them right and left and up and down with the new exercises I got yesterday. The goal is to condition my eyes to move without moving the rest of my body. I am now stretching muscles that have not been stretched before, and they will grow more supple over time, little by little. Those muscles feel a little tired after the exercises, but it is a good tired because next time they will be stronger and more able to do the work. That’s training.

In fact, I also get mentally weary. During yesterday’s office visit, after the umpteenth time answering whether the chart had gone up or down or right or left or up and right or down and left or up and left or down and right when a prism was applied, the brain-fog rolled in and I just couldn’t see movement anymore. My therapist knew to give me a break, to have me rest my eyes and brain. But we both know I will be able to sustain more visual awareness next time. That’s training.

The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy…

You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inert, so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it …

Were you listening to me Neo, or were you looking at the woman in the red dress?

I was …

"The Matrix" ©Warner Bros.

It is so easy to fall back into old visual habits of not seeing … of dullness to the realities around me.

This is the visual suppression system I have depended on for as far back as I can remember.

But if I’m ever to break free of the matrix of visual suppression in the back of my mind, I will need: endurance born of a strong will to break free, a vision-therapist guide to take me through training, and my fellow shipmates to encourage me along the way.

I know what you’re trying to do.

I’m trying to free your mind, Neo, but I can only show you the door, you’re the one that has to walk through it…

You have to let it all go, Neo, fear, doubt, and disbelief.




"The Matrix" ©Warner Bros.

Childlike wonder

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“’Curiouser and curiouser!’ Cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English).”

The first time I got my eyes to see something new, I literally inhaled “HUH?!” in shock and … fear! Then thought, “Oh dear! I have just rewarded my accomplishment with negative brain chemicals. Quick— think happy, Lynda!”

Susan Barry writes in her Psychology Today blog, “Eyes on the Brain”

Novel and rewarding experiences not only encourage people to work harder at their therapy but also have direct effects on brain wiring. When a person experiences something new and gratifying, neurons in the brainstem and basal forebrain are activated and liberate powerful neuromodulators onto circuits in the cerebral cortex. These neuromodulators, including dopamine, serotonin, and acetylcholine, trigger the changes in neuronal connections that underlie new perceptual experiences and learning.

Alice has become a role model, although I never liked her adventures as a child. To be honest, I was mostly terrified by the thought of growing too big and getting wedged in a house!

Alice in Rabbit's house

And I never wanted to be a giraffe. But Alice simply and cheerily says “Goodbye feet!” as her neck grows up and away, because she is enjoying how everything is “Curiouser and curiouser!”

Bring on the childlike wonder! Bring on the dopamine!

Now that I have worn the center-occluded glasses for a week, I take in the whole world with heightened peripheral awareness. Even without the glasses, going up the stairwell at Summit Artspace now reminds me of a Halo game, with the handrails and walls slipping by and out of view. Driving home reminded me Gran Turismo, as the road signs and guardrails flew by (but at a mere 60mph!).

It’s another novelty, this expanded reality. I have much to be thankful for. I am enjoying these Wonderland moments.

Discovering peripheral vision

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I went home from my first appointment and extensive eye exam on Tuesday with instructions to tape the center 1″ of my glasses and discover my peripheral vision system. I emailed my vision therapist the next day:

You told me to “have fun” with my occluded center vision and heightened peripheral vision. I have to tell you— I’m having a blast!

Seriously, I’ve noticed several amazing things (and it’s only half-way through the first day):

  • I automatically go up and down the stairs without reaching to feel the right wall
  • I saw myself go THROUGH a doorway! I was so thrilled I turned and went a back THROUGH the doorway about 3 more times (and then laughed at the cat staring at me and meowing from the middle of the kitchen floor.)
  • I am more aware of my the muscles working in my feet, ankles and legs, and am walking without looking at my feet, or looking a short distance on the path in front of them.
  • I feel taller … more erect … chin up more.

Fixing My Gaze finally arrived, and I am already half way through it. It turns out that the process of perceiving THROUGH has a name: optic flow. Barry writes

As I continued my vision therapy and became increasingly aware of my peripheral vision, I was able to tap into a phenomenon called optic flow. When you move forward, objects to the side of you appear to move backward. This optic flow is fastest for objects oriented at 90° to your movement, and the closer objects appear to you, the faster they appear to move … Cinematographers and video game designers have figured out how to create illusions of motion on flat screens by simulating optic flow. (p. 84)

Perhaps that’s why, every time I go through a doorway, I can almost hear the hum and “whoosh!” of a surround-sound theater space portal!

I’ve since realized I did learn to rely on peripheral vision in my mid-30s, when I was on a worship dance team (there was grace enough for a girl with two left feet to dance in church). I had to look out of the corners of my eyes because I needed to know where everyone was and what they were doing to stay in sync and to keep in my designated “window” in the choreography.

It just never occurred to me to use it always.

With my peripheral vision, I am able to use both eyes at the same time. Perhaps that’s why my body feels more balanced with the occlusion than without.

I am using these new glasses every chance I get!

center-occluded glasses

My new sno-occluded glasses (The Sno Seal is less visible than tape; and the beeswax won’t mess with the carbon lenses. I used the tape to get a straight line, and applied the wax with a very soft watercolor brush.)