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

Some are color blind. I am stereo blind.

Archive for the ‘visual cortex’ Category

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

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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.

New online brain map aides visual system research

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One of the factors for developing strabismus as an infant is whether other family members have the disorder. There often is a genetic connection in patient family history.

A new online atlas of the human brain is now available to researchers and anyone else with an internet connection. The visual cortex is being linked to the presence of specific genes here: http://www.brain-map.org/

An article in yesterday’s Wall St. Journal explains

A project of the Seattle-based Allen Institute for Brain Science, the online atlas offers researchers a powerful new tool to understand where and how genes are at work in the brain. That could help them find new clues to conditions rooted in the brain, such as Alzheimer’s disease, autism and mental-health disorders like depression.

In these two normal male brains, the connection between normal vision development and any genes that have been mapped can be more deeply explored. As more human brains are donated to the atlas for mapping, one day I would imagine a brain representing 4% of the population with strabismus will be donated, researched and mapped.

When I visited the site and searched for “visual cortex” a data list from two donors appeared. One link to an 8 year old boy showed a list of genes found in his right visual cortex with a link to the related gene symbols and name, ENC1 or ectodermal-neural cortex 1. This link goes to a page which has links to additional research on ENC1.

The second interesting link is from the brain-slice image, which takes you to a page with all the slices, and the visual cortex areas are labeled. One can zoom in on any of the images on the right and even see the cells.

The Allen Institute online brain map is breaking ground, with potential for further research into genetic connections for strabismus and stereo blindness.

Until now, researchers have been hard-pressed to link symptoms of the diseases they study to the biochemistry of genes that might be responsible for them. [1]

Written by Lynda Rimke

April 16, 2011 at 10:26 am