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

Some are color blind. I am stereo blind.

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Yoga Relaxes My Gaze

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I am still on self-imposed sabbatical from any DIY VT sessions. The red-green glasses, tubes, bird-on-a-stick and Brock String still reside in their basket on the hall stand, gathering dust. Apparently, the break is not hurting my “progress.” Instead, it seems to be another form of letting-go that might be helping.

Giving my Brain some Space

Last post I wrote about consciously giving my brain permission to use both eyes. However, this often unconsciously happens during my weekly yoga exercise session at the local Methodist church. There is something about the combination of dim lighting, soothing music and diffusion of lavender that helps my mind let go while going through and holding different yoga poses for an hour or so. About half way into the session, when I gaze rather vacantly at the ceiling, one of the ceiling fixtures will double in my central vision.

My consciously unsuppressed, permitted diplopia continues all the way through to the final 5-to-10 minute “savasana” rest time, when our instructor tells us to relax our feet and legs, torso and arms, shoulders, neck and head, including the face and eyes.

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Last week, after I relaxed my eye muscles, the dancing double images of the ceiling vent directly above me fused into a nebulous whole. It wasn’t the 3D, popped-out vent I desire, but more of an elliptical shape that was a bit wider than a circle, shifting it’s shape a bit like it was under water.

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The best part was that the watery-looking but whole ceiling vent didn’t slide back to double, nor did my brain suppress one eye to see it more clearly— what usually happens!

In my last post I shared that “Letting go also requires giving myself permission to allow a new way of seeing to emerge, to be visually open-minded.”

Yoga is making this possible , and I am thankful.

Oh to be so care-free all the day long! I must learn to cast away care “without ceasing” as a heart attitude.

Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.  – 1 Peter 5:7

No Better Than a Placebo

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New research is tracking brain changes in patients who undergo binocular vision therapy. Combine objective fMRI data and the many blog posts by adult therapy patients, and you have exponential evidence that vision therapy works for adult patients, and is getting better and better at targeting each patient’s unique visual needs to generate success.

All you need, therefore, is a therapist with an interest in helping the adult patient with the newest cutting edge stuff like Oculus Rift who happens to be passionate about binocular vision and works with adult patients within 100 miles.

My own home-based VT with a little help from an optometrist in my village pretty much ground to a halt in October. I even cancelled my monthly visit, acting out a deplorable level of avoidance behavior I am ashamed to admit. I did manage to make a 15 minute visit in November to confess I had done nothing since September. I did not commit to more monthly visits, as I’ve not been doing any exercises.

This week’s post at The VisionHelp Blog  detailed the new neural research with a link to a TED talk by Tara Alvarez, Ph.D. In the midst of the good news was a succinct explanation for my own self-imposed hiatus:

… in the video she notes that in the landmark CITT study … home-alone therapy was no better than (a) placebo.  A significant reason for this, she speculates is that the currently available home-alone therapy is gosh-awful boring and compliance is therefore lacking.  Another potential reason is  the patient may not be doing the therapy optimally because of lack of feedback from a therapist.

Boredom plus lack of solid feedback are indeed primary causes for throwing in the towel. In addition, the exercises exhaust me. I recently read of another patient’s progress at the Mindsight blog and he/she continually admits to the need for SLEEP. I battle feeling totally fried after just 2 minutes of Brock staring. Even looking at motion parallax while my husband drives places cooks my noodle on a good day. And, while this patient is making measurable progress, I lack any measurement but my own guesstimates, and wonder if they are even accurate.

Where do I go from here? Three years ago, the Vision Therapist working under my Developmental Optometrist offered to stay in touch via email, because she is a fellow adult strabismic and was undergoing Vision Therapy to gain binocular vision at the time. I’m curious to know if she has made progress. Curious enough to contact her.

Meanwhile, I have my “Map of Fellows” grabbed from the “Locate a Doctor” search at covd.org … the closest Fellow is the Developmental Optometrist I worked with before my BRAO in 2010-11 where the aforementioned strabismic VT works. In 2010 that Fellow was somewhat reluctant to take me on (due to the dearth of data confirming adult success) and suggested a more progressive Fellow in Cleveland. My sudden blindness in March 2011 put frosting on that reluctance cake.

Cleveland is far, but a less stressful drive than going to Pittsburgh through the hills on back roads and  secondary highways. But my driving back home from Cleveland through Akron and Canton for over an hour, fighting heavy traffic AFTER the weekly brain-frying session? No. No. No. Not safe …

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And so, my hiatus remains. But my interest is still on fire. That may never change.

Stereo Vision Survey

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Exciting news! Bruce Bridgeman, the gentleman who gained stereo vision after watching Hugo, has teamed up with Sue Barry of Fixing My Gaze to create a long crowd-sourced research project in search of those who have experienced increased stereo vision after watching 3D movies.

Although my stereo experiences are limited and have not yet been scientifically verified, there seems to be room for even me to take this survey, as there is a comment section at the end of three different sections where I can plug in additional information. (In my case, how BRAO has affected my vision.)

I encourage all strabismic adults to at least read the survey, which is instructive in itself. If you have had a stereoscopic experience after watching a 3D movie, share your experience in the survey.

The survey also takes into account if you have had any vision therapy or had your stereo-awareness measured by a professional.

The VisionHelp Blog

If either you, a family member, or any patients you encounter have developed stereo vision as an adult – even intermittent or weak stereo vision – please complete this survey developed by Sue Barry and Bruce Bridgeman:

http://bit.ly/1vThYaM

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The survey and its background were just published on page 13 of the new journal, Vision Development & Rehabilitation.  Through crowdsourcing of this nature, Drs. Barry and Bridgeman may be able to provide evidence to support that the viewing of stereoscopic 3D movies and similar modalities can be therapeutic for certain individuals.  We blogged about that possibility here last year, and this survey is an important step in that direction.

Completing the survey is entirely voluntary. You do not need to answer every question before submitting it. Your answers are sent to a spreadsheet which simply tabulates your answers with no other identifying information.  Thank you in advance!

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When Surrender Resurrects Desire

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In May, after five months of quasi-resignation from a less-than-encouraging January Optometrist’s appointment, I attempted a third and final self-portrait of my Vision Therapy journey where I would express my acceptance of my fate and diagnosis: “You are not binocular.”

It didn’t work. I couldn’t let go of hope.

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As much as I wanted to depict “Meh,” an attitude of perturbed acceptance of a life without stereo vision, my feelings before the show were much more intense. The triptych was hung above my eye level, which was intensely upsetting to me. My negative reaction was above and beyond reasonable: it felt like someone had smacked a scab on my brain. Why the super-sensitivity?

My brain was talking to me: “This area is not healed yet. Don’t treat the stereo-blindness in your visual center as permanent. This is not scar tissue, Dearie. We’re not done yet.”

A local art critic, Tom Wachunas, summed up the crux of the matter in four short sentences:

Among the more resonant works here are three self- portraits in pencil by Lynda Rimke. They’re simple yet disarmingly candid explorations of her medical condition called stereo-blindness. I get the sense that she’s not looking out at the viewer so much as carefully navigating the act of seeing. The mirror becomes her lens on an inward journey. (1)

And so it is. In spite of my cravings for resignation and closure, I am still trying to “navigate the act of seeing.”

Indeed, 3D-ish quales have returned now that outdoor tasks demand stereopsis from me. The first occurred in late May while pruning the Rose of Sharon: I saw the branches at eye level and below reach out to me. This may have been a protective reaction, as one branch came very close to my right eye, which is blind in the upper inner quadrant of my visual field.

This was just the beginning of several outdoor gardening events, where I experienced enhanced depth while hoeing a row that has to be 1-2″ deep for corn or beans, while weeding, while transplanting.

I am committing to shorter and more frequent blog posts of these experiences, as there is lots to share … for what it’s worth.

How 3D in film is improving, especially for the stereoblind

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Several months ago, I was encouraged by the BBC story  of a stereoblind man who gained binocular vision simply by watching a 3D movie.

In February 2012, neuroscientist Bruce Bridgeman went with his wife to see Hugo,  a masterfully crafted 3D movie by Martin Scorese. Bridgmen recounts in an email to Oliver Sacks  “my wife and I paid a surcharge for 3D glasses, which I thought were a waste of money for me – having been exotropic since childhood, I was nearly stereo-blind. But I took the polarizing glasses to avoid seeing annoying fringes in the film.

To my great surprise, I immediately experienced the film in vivid stereo. I was enthralled.

“But perhaps the filmmakers exaggerated the stereo disparities in the film to enhance the value of the 3D technology … Hugo’s VFX supervisor Ben Grossmann said ‘We checked and checked: We were four to six times bigger than any other 3D movie.’ But everything looked amazing …

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“When the movie ended we turned in our polarized glasses and walked out into the street. I was astonished to see a lamppost standing out from the background. Trees, cars, even people were in relief more vivid than I had ever experienced. Clearly the disparities weren’t amped up on the street. Did a few hours of enhanced disparity wake up long-neglected binocular neurons in my visual cortex?”

The blogger who posted Bruce Bridgeman’s email is non other than Barry B. Sandrew, Ph.D., stereographer and founder of Legend3D, which worked with Scorese on Hugo and Director Ang Lee on Life of Pi.  Like Scorese and Lee, Sandrew is more interested in how 3D technology can enhance a story to make it more life-like, instead of pushing bizarre 3D experiences on an audience. Thankfully, the trend has shifted towards creating depth scripts to enhance drama: “The actors become like a moving sculpture,” Mr. Scorsese says. “This brings it out, particularly in the faces of the actors, the drama.” 1

I am of the opinion that well-crafted, life-experience-enhancing 3D movies will provide the most powerful “handle” for my stereoblind brain to understand stereopsis. Morgan Peck, the BBC blogger, adds that breakthrough comes, according to Dr. Laurie Wilcox of York University “when the person finally figures out what to look for.”

Peck backs the idea of stereo cognition via monocular depth cues  with the experimental research of Dr. Dennis Levi, where in 2011 five stereoblind adults learned to see 3D.  “Levi found that his subjects were most likely to have a breakthrough if the stereoscopic images were reinforced by monocular cues like relative size and shading. This could explain why Bridgeman’s experience was so dramatic.” 2

Peck adds final affirmation from Dr. Sandrew “It’s intuitive that monocular cues, which partially stereoblind people rely on every day are essential to the quality of their 3D experience. My mantra is to incorporate monocular cues wherever possible.”

I just checked: I can still catch Life of Pi in my area. There’s still time to see Sandrew’s mantra in action. I’m onto it!

Further reading:
A Visionary Director’s Sumptuous ‘Pi’ by Joe Morgenstern Wall Street Journal
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323713104578132912697702772.html

“Life of Pi” Director Ang Lee to Receive Harold Lloyd Award at International 3D Society Creative Arts Awards, February 6, 2013
http://online.wsj.com/article/PR-CO-20121203-902307.html?mod=crnews

The Godfathers of Film Take On 3-D* (include Scorese’s thoughts on the application of 3D in Hugo)
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903918104576502090225620336.html

 

Written by Lynda Rimke

January 10, 2013 at 12:15 am

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!

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.

 

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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]