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

Some are color blind. I am stereo blind.

Archive for the ‘positive reenforcement’ 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.

 

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 …

1209map100

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

Staring “off into space” with both eyes

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I caught my eyes at play this morning, while sipping coffee by the fireside in the pre-dawn gloom.

I must have been really staring “off into space” because a light appeared and disappeared. “What??” became my focus, and the light instantly disappeared and I could make out a grocery bag that I had set on the kitchen table. Hmmm-mm.

I closed my dominant left eye (the eye my brain uses in “what?” mode to the exclusion of information from the right). There appeared the light through my half-blind eye— the green clock numbers on my stove! Aha! The bag was blocking the light from the left eye but not the right.

What a happy event, my randomly plopping the bag down and not putting it away last night!

I settled back in my chair and resumed staring “off into space” and enjoyed the flickering green confirmation that both eyes were “on” and working.

Way to go, right eye!

Lynda's diagram

The trouble with “trouble”

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… people are really not worthy of all that trouble.

This was said by an eye surgeon to his orthoptist (vision therapist) friend over 100 years ago, after the friend had demonstrated the techniques he used with his 8-year-old strabismic sister that had enabled her to see 3D. [1]

Had my parents understood what I was seeing at age two or eight, they would have taken “all that trouble” to align my eyes. They did just that for my teeth.

In 1967, Dad sought out a new state-of-the-art practice called orthodontics that did not involve pulling my adult teeth, which had erupted like pop corn, overlapping in places. He did this because he has lost some of his. In his day, there were no orthodontists. If your teeth were crowded, a dentist pulled a few to make room, and that was that.

My jaws were gradually widened instead. For several months when I was 8 and 9 years old, my mother would take a small wire key and turn a crank on a bridge-like device that was cemented to two upper molars on either side. The crank turned a gear to widen the bridge, like a torture rack. This strange bedtime ritual made my nose tickle. But it was worth it because over several months my palette widened, creating space for my overlapping teeth.

The "night brace"

For several years after that, I wore a night brace to continue to widen my upper and lower jaws. Rubber bands pulled my lower jaw forward, closing my 1/2″ overbite so that my lower lip no longer printed itself with my upper teeth. My digestion improved, and my numerous canker sores faded away. Indeed, wearing the ugly brace for 3 years and dealing with hooking up flying rubber bands was totally worth “all that trouble.”

I was in “the program” 11 years …

But alas, during that time, my parents could not know my eyes were crooked. There was no elementary school screening for stereo blindness in the 1960s (and sadly, there still isn’t.) Even the optometrists who prescribed my glasses from age 10 on did not report my alternating esotropia during occlusion to my parents. I wonder why?

I wonder why orthodontics, a costly and troublesome program to straighten teeth is widely accepted and embraced by parents and pediatricians, and orthoptics (vision therapy) remains unknown, even though the practices to straighten eyes have existed for over 100 years with life-changing benefits that far outweigh the benefits of straight teeth, in my opinion.

Thankfully, interest in orthoptics and vision therapy is growing: Sue Barry has published her success at gaining stable 3D vision in her book Fixing My Gaze. Many are seeking out vision therapy because of her story.

Bloggers are emerging to publicize their vision therapy journeys. Aside from myself, “Squinty Josh” documents his therapies in great detail, “Strabby” contrasts her past experiences with ophthalmology and new progress with vision therapy and “The Life and Times of Stella” eloquently relates how vision therapy is transforming the vision and life outlook of a young toddler. We have all enjoyed promotion by Dr. Leonard Press through the College of Optometrists in Vision Development via “The Vision Help Blog”

Interest is growing in stereo blindness due to new 3D viewing technology. Recently MacNews published an article on the stereo blind titled “3D TV — not everyone can see (literally) what the hype is about”

The 3D film is moving from movie theaters to home theaters, TVs and game consoles. Soon, home video will be filmed in 3D. No one will want to go back to 2D; how limiting would that be?

No one chooses limitation.

Society’s disdain for things 2D will only empower the stereo blind to better negotiate for their own opportunity to see 3D in real life.

Let the revolution of the stereo blind begin! WE ARE WORTH IT!

Written by Lynda Rimke

March 22, 2011 at 9:57 pm

“The Matrix” in my head

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Morpheus:
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?

Neo:
The Matrix.
What is it?

Morpheus:
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.

Neo:
Why do my eyes hurt?

Morpheus:
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.

Morpheus:
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?

Neo:
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.

Neo:
I know what you’re trying to do.

Morpheus:
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.

Free

your

mind.

"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.