Sunday, August 16, 2020

Loving my new vision

It's nice. 

I just got back from a long walk (two hours).  It was on my mind about how different my vision is now, compared to how it was before.  Like, even looking around, switching my gaze from one object to another.  I'm now able to keep the double images on top of each other all of the time.  

It's not true for every angle.  For instance, I still have diplopia when looking down.  And even with normal looking around, the diplopia is still constant.  Even looking at the screen as I type this, I have constant diplopia, but the double images are now on top of one another.  It is a little weird, because it's almost like two worlds laid on top of one another.  One is bobbing around a little.  But it is far less distracting than it used to be.  It's so nice to know that my eyes are basically working the way they should and that my brain is know being told that it no longer needs to suppress. 

It's quite nice.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Yep... ah!

Had a great day today.  

Man, it feels like a lot is happening.  Pandemic.  Civil unrest.  My vision coming online.  Learning a fuckload of interesting new things at my job.  My brain certainly has quite a bit to keep itself busy.

I just noticed things are very bright, is all.  And I know what that is. It's both eyes coming online simultaneously.  At the end of the day now I'm exhausted, despite having slept great last night.  Also, things look a lot straighter.  Stereo cues are sharpening.  I remember playing Half-Life: Alyx last night.  There was a shelf with a bunch of things on it.  Cups, cans, tools.  I remember being up close, looking at them.  Noticing I wasn't seeing mere renderings.  I was seeing space between the objects.  It is quite awesome.  And frankly, in this moment I'm sort of grateful that this is not happening all at once.  I get to see the improvement.  Check in.  See what's changed.  It's great.  

As said in previous blogs, my vision therapy is now kind of on autopilot: things are now improving by themselves--automatically--now that the proper habits have been established.  

But thinking about what's going on under the hood--I know a lot is going on in my brain in the meantime.  I am tired quite a bit, particularly at the end of the day.  And lately, frankly, I've been up and down a lot.  Almost a type of bipolar, although that's probably wrong.  Like on Sunday I just felt like shit for no apparent reason.  Like, really down in the dumps.  And then on Monday it was gone.  I mean, when you change the architecture of your brain, you can't know with precision what impact you're going to have on what it does.  

I just need to follow the road.  Can't wait to see what happens next.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

What vision therapy has taught me (pt 2)

Things are still going really well.  I feel like I'm now coasting my way to victory.  There may be things I can do to make this go faster, but improvement is now a self-reinforcing thing.  Binocular posture is now my default, and correcting my gaze is pretty much automatic.

I was listening to the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, and he had a guest on who is a neuroscientist named Andrew Hubberman.  They talked quite a bit about neuroplasticity and the visual system, which is relevant to my interests. 

At one point in the podcast he was talking about the difference in neuroplasticity between children and adults, and the implications of these differences.  For instance, we have neuroplasticity throughout our lives.  If we didn't, our brains wouldn't work, period.  But children have much greater neuroplasticity.  This is why children can be much more easily molded than adults.

He makes the general point that you can't really change an adult's opinion about something.  If an adult is going to change his opinion about something, he's the one who is going to drive the change.

That actually corresponds pretty well to the development of one's visual system.

Children who have vision problems can often very easily fix their vision with simple vision therapy.  And it's often been said it would happen with very little effort or time investment.  On the other hand, for adults, it's usually a very different matter entirely.

Adults brains are plastic, and adults can change themselves in profound ways ways that defy intuition.  Not even young adults, but adults in their 60's and up.  It's just that they're not as plastic as children (although there is undoubtedly variability in neuroplasticity among adults).

Adults who want to change themselves have to deliberately leverage their neuroplasticity.  They have to work constantly to mold their brains in the direction they want to move it.  They have to know that it's not going to happen all at once.  But if they know about their neuroplasticity and work with it consistently, deliberately, and in a mindful way, then over time (maybe not even that much time), they can make huge changes to themselves and their lives.   

If my current trajectory eventually results in me being able to resolve auto-stereograms (Magic Eye--sort of a conclusive test of proper stereoscopic vision), then that will be personal proof that an adult can change himself in profound ways.

“Any man could, if he were so inclined, be the sculptor of his own brain.” --
Santiago Ramón y Cajal

What an incredibly empowering lesson to learn--even if--it's somewhat late in life (I am 36 years old--okay, maybe not too too bad).  Let's say I achieve my goals in one year.  It will have taken me 10 years of deliberate work to rewire my brain and eyes to work properly.  That is a huge overhaul in how the brain works.  There are big difference in what the brain does for someone who has stereopsis vs someone who is stereo-blind.  I won't go into them, but it is a massive difference, and Susan Barry has talked about other changes she's noticed in her cognition after she gained permanent stereopsis at the age of 50. Given the magnitude of the change, you should expect other changes as well.

And if this is true that I can make massive material changes in my brain, then what else can I do?  I can probably get good at guitar and learn how to sing and play simultaneously (something I've always struggled with).  Vision therapy has taught me grit.  I've always been a naturally gritty, hardworking, and conscientious person.  But this journey has given me special insight in what it means to learn new skills, and what it means in concrete, material terms in the brain.  I don't freak out, or get disillusioned.  I don't expect immediate results.  I watch continually for improvement and indicators that I'm moving in the right direction.  I partition a part of myself from the process.  A part of me is watching the process from above, monitoring, and making sure I'm on track.

This 'meta-cognition'--this ability to partition myself, to apply grit and stoicism, and to understand the learning process, and to think about learning in terms of molding my brain and leveraging my neuroplasticity, has applications to literally everything.  I suspect that's why it's good to do difficult things.  Doing difficult things forces you to learn lots of little 'sub'-skills--such as the ones I've mentioned--and that these sub-skills can be applied to lots of things.  I have learned a lot of these little sub-skills and it really does pay off to learn them.  They really help with a bunch of apparently unrelated things you'll encounter in life. 

Anyhiz, that's all I wanted to say about that.  I'd been mulling of that every since I'd heard that podcast.  Another thing I've noticed is how I think virtual reality is helpful with stereopsis recovery.   Some of these mini-games in Half Life: Alyx are great in that you do indeed get stereo cues, but in order to solve the puzzles, you have to navigate through space, meaning that it's not totally visual.  These games incorporate your proprioception (your body's sense of knowing where it is in space), which is a very important aspect of vision.
Valve believes Half-Life: Alyx will be modded to play without VR ...
There's a little gif of the mini-game I'm talking about.  I remember solving the game and being tripped out by how it was triggering my binocular neurons and how weird it felt.  But then also, I could kind of feel new mappings occurring as I had to move my control through space to connect the different colored nodes to one another.  I could kind of feel that connection happening in real time as my visual system and proprioception systems were sort of talking with one another.  

Yeah.  VR is pretty nuts.  And it's only going to get better, along with its utility to vision therapy. 

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Vision is solidifying

Just now, walking around the house, I suddenly came up with a new adjective for what's happening with my vision.  My binocular posture is in the solidifying process.  Things are not solid--yet.  But looking through both of my eyes is now becoming automatic.  As I walk around, I notice that as objects are occluded by other objects for one eye, the other eye still sees those objects.  I now have constant double vision, although it's not that distracting.  Each eye is actively pointing.  The lazy eye is no longer there 'for the ride'--kind of being tugged around by and looking roughly in the same direction as the dominant eye.  It is now taking direct instruction from my brain.  It is a very different new way of using my visual system.

I noticed last night I was using my computer, I suddenly got very distracted by how bright it all seemed.  It seemed like all of a sudden, the screen just got WAY brighter.  Actually, it was me.  I think the eye is switching on and my brain is taking in a lot more information.

I mentioned in the previous entry that I am going to get an eye evaluation so that I can continue with Vivid Vision training with Dr. Tran.  Turned out that offices are open, I just have to wear a mask is all.  So I am excited to see what kind of stats they give me in the evaluation as I am positive my vision has seen significant improvement.  The subjective experience is much better, but I'm curious to see what the actual numbers indicate.  I'm also excited to get back on the Vivid Vision horse.

That said, I'm not going to stop playing Half Life: Alyx.  I've beaten the game about five times already, but the game has remarkable replayability, despite the fact that it is single-player only.  The graphics, the interactivity, and the feeling of presence: of truly being in a different place.  I really do think that the unmatched immersion factor of the game plays a role in its utility in training my eyes to work together. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Inching my way to a perceptual shift

Vision really is steadily improving.  The double images are getting closer and closer.  And I'm noticing more and more that I'm able to pay attention through both eyes at the same time.  It really is quite trippy.  I've also been noticing more and more that my eyes look straighter than ever.  I'm very happy. 

I've even reached out to Dr. Tran a while back to talk about perhaps getting back into Vivid Vision.  Reason being, that now that my eyes are so straight and doing so well, now might be a better time than ever to do anti-suppression exercises.  Vivid Vision games are very anti-suppressive, among other things.  Tuan said, absolutely, he would like to get me back on.  But he would like me to first get an evaluation from an optometrist in the area.  Well, that kinda sucks, I'm sorta doubtful that's going to happen with the whole COVID thing going on and whatnot.  Still, I should like to see. 

One thing I've noticed that might be helping quite a bit is playing a new VR game that I got--Half Life: Alyx.  The whole deal with Half-Life: Alyx is that it is the first truly AAA quality VR game we've seen.  They've nailed the graphics, physics/interactivity, as well as combat and storytelling.  It is, simply put, the best VR game (and I might argue the best game ever created) currently out there by a long shot.  It is incredibly immersive and engaging.  For this reason, I think it's been more helpful in developing my vision than other applications. 

Anyway, not much else to say other than that.  I have not gone a day without thinking about my vision for nearly ten years.  Sometimes it takes that long. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Another major change

Not quite a breakthrough.  But I have noticed at particular times, especially when watching TV or using my computer at mid-distance, that my diplopia is no longer annoying.  Also, my eyes look straighter than ever, and I'm seeing significantly more depth in VR games. I'm not sure what the difference is.  I suspect that it's just time, continuous mindfulness about using binocular posture, and using VR to provide a hyper-binocular stimulus.

Haven't been doing Brock string or anything like that.  Just VR, and trying as much as possible to be aware of the use of both eyes.  I'm also careful to use both eyes when reading, using the reading technique prescribed in previous entries. 

It's getting easier and easier to internally conceptualize what it's like to use both eyes.   Holy crap, VR beginning to get intense as I lose the suppression. 

I'm more confident than ever that I'm going to achieve my goals if I keep going. 

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Beginning to see space

I've noticed quite a bit of improvement in the past few days.  I'm noticing my eyes are coming together, and it's increasingly the case that my double images are on top of each other and that this has practical benefits: it makes reading and watching TV more enjoyable and less distracting.

I'm not doing 'vision therapy' and haven't been for a number of months now.  The reason is because I think I've learned the important lessons from vision therapy and I'm able to use what I've learned from those lessons all of the time now.

One training technique I've been using a lot lately is actually reading books on my iPad.  I use a reading technique that I learned from Tim Ferriss.

In this video, Tim Ferriss explains how to speed read.  And actually he says  that most people are never taught how to read properly, which is a bit bold, but I think he has a good point.  The key to speed reading (and reading properly) is to minimize the number of saccades (or jumps) of the eye while reading by skipping the margins.  The fewer saccades you make, the faster you read.

This can be demonstrated with a program called 'Spreeder'.  The idea is that the program flashes words at you in the same spot, one word after another, really quickly.  This way, you don't have to move your eyes at all.  Automatically you find yourself reading much more quickly than at your base rate--all by eliminating saccades. 

Tim explains that the way that you decrease the number of saccades you make per line of text is by training your peripheral vision.  Don't begin each line at the beginning.  Start an inch to the right of the margin.  Also don't finish the line of text at the end.  Stop an inch to the left of the end. Over time, Tim explains that you can skip more and more of the margins (up to two inches from each side) to further reduce the number of saccades. 

I found this awkward at first because my peripheral vision isn't so great.  This is particularly true for my left eye because that's my weak eye.  It was slow and awkward at first because I would deliberately be looking around the periphery to build the strength in the eye.  So I was actually reading slower than my normal method (which involves the use of only one eye, actually).

But the more I practiced reading this way, alternating eyes from left to right, and trying to minimize my saccades (I can do about two per line now), and really feeling around my periphery, I've gotten quite a bit quicker.  And my left eye seems to have gotten quite a bit stronger, and the peripheral vision better.

 Today I had a weird sensation that things suddenly looked really, really big and bright with that eye--much more than usual.  That is still the case.  I also suddenly noticed space between my couch and the side table.  It was pretty cool.  I also noticed quite a bit more space while playing VR today.

So things are looking peachy.  I still don't have stereopsis (some sort of low-level stereopsis).  But it seems like the eye is really beginning to come online, and it has a lot to do with the fact that I've been really training my peripheral vision with both eyes with this new reading technique.  I still have double vision, but it's not that distracting.

At this point, I would say that vision therapy has been a success.  It seems I've jumped the hurdle when vision therapy caused my eye to significantly decrease suppression without having full control over the eye.  This is an awkward phase in vision therapy as I've learned because it's like you're stuck with what can be crippling double vision.  At least before vision therapy, I didn't have bad double vision because I was suppressing so much.  But there can be a phase when the suppression significantly decreases without the control and so you're stuck with really distracting double vision.  I seem to have gotten over that.  I have sufficient control of the eyes so that fact that the eyes are both really turned on now means it isn't such a problem that it was.