Sunday, June 30, 2013

#23 session

It seems now I'm working on fine-tuning my lazy eye.  I still have hypertropia even though I don't notice it when I do the light tube.  When I look into the magenta circle the images lay on top of one another effortlessly, although the lazy-eye image still drifts about a little bit.  I suppose that's where the fine-tuning comes in.  Now I just need more time to let the brain turn on the lazy eye more and more.

Today is the day that I would have changed filters to dark green, but as I said before, I'm going to stick with magenta for another week.  Next Sunday I will change to dark green whether or not I have reached my goals.  This is because I believe the magenta filters are stressful to the body and I'm going to need some time to rest.

Saccades were still great.  They were effortless.  Just like the light tube, it's now just a matter of fine-tuning.  I am anxious about the cyclodeviation.  I am getting more anxious as I feel I am nearing the end.  What if I get very close to gaining stereopsis, but then progress stops?  One of the weird things is that I never had the ability to fuse and have success with hidden or object-array autostereograms, despite the fact that I do have some stereo ability.  I do pick up on stereo cues to an extent.  It is my hope that once my lazy eye's performance gets up to speed that autostereograms open up to me.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

#22 session

This session seems to mark a turning point.  When I looked into the magenta light, the hypertropia was almost non-existent.  There was almost no need for correction.  Just as I predicted, this enabled the brain to turn on the lazy eye more, so the result is that the input coming in from the lazy eye was brighter than ever before.  It's almost like the brain is saying 'ok, there's no longer a conflict between what each eye is seeing, so now we can turn up the volume on the other eye.'--the opposite of suppression.

This session was remarkably easy.  There was practically no need for correction.  I just focused as much as possible on flexing the muscle--turning on the lazy eye.  This is something that is difficult to explain.  It would have been difficult to explain to myself only a few months ago.  I talked about it a bit in previous entries.  But as you move along in vision therapy, you'll notice that you are continually faced with new choices for how you use your eyes.  You just have to be active and perceptive.  Then think about the choices, intellectualize them, and then make the best decision.  Remember that breaking old habits in favor of newer and better habits is what vision therapy is all about.

Saccades were, again, the best they'd ever been.  I'm noticing a trend here.  If I follow the trend to the conclusion, each saccade will be perfect in a few week's time.  That is, each eye will land where it's supposed to perfectly, with no need for correction.  It's hard not to get excited.  I talked with Michael about this, and I mentioned that I really need to tone it down.  But it's hard.  I'm so jacked up.

Friday, June 28, 2013

#21 session

Like yesterday, today's session was quite easy.  There was a period about five minutes in in which it was strenuous, but after the ten minute mark it was easy, and my focus was just to stare at that light through my lazy eye, trying to make it as bright and as real as possible.

Saccades went really well.  It was probably the best yet.  Saccading to the extremes was easier and faster than ever before.

Staring at the magenta light for 40 minutes a day really does jack with your system.  The mood swings are very real.  It basically pisses me off.  This makes sense because it's known that red light triggers the sympathetic nervous system, which is the system that is responsible for the fight-or-flight cascade in the body.  Maybe that's because red is the color of blood.  The fight-or-flight cascade in response to the sight of blood, averaged out in our ancestors over time, may have proved adaptive.  Or it could be a spandrel, a quirk in our nervous system which is a meaningless result of previous adaptations.

40 minutes is a really high exposure, and I suspect that it is very stressful to the body.  In fact, I've been sleeping quite a bit more than normal.  But the magenta filters do seem to be particularly helpful in wiring up the eye.

I think if I end up mentoring people with strabismus, one of the biggest things I will stress is the use of syntonics for fixing the eye's alignment.  This is because measuring alignment is relatively straightforward, and because there's little doubt that syntonics is extremely effective at straightening the eyes out.  It seems to me that alignment should be among the first things to work on because nothing else is going to work if the eyes aren't aligned.  Granted, I know that different aspects of the visual system are connected, so if you focus on antisuppression, it may indirectly help alignment.  Exercises focusing on different aspects of the system do seem to complement one another.  So a shotgun approach does seem to be a good idea.  But the beauty of syntonics is that it is a shotgun blast of many different exercises all in one.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

#20 session

There's not a lot to say.  This was the easiest session that I'd had for a long time.  The hypertropia was almost not even there.  I just checked it out in front of the mirror in the bathroom, and while it's still there, it does seem to have gone down in the past week.  I am snapping pictures of it with some regularity.  In the end, I will post all of them together with the dates so that we can vividly see the effects of syntonics on eye alignment.

I didn't notice any changes in saccades from last time.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

#19 session

This session wasn't difficult.  It was a bit effortsome in the first ten minutes, but then the control got easier.  It definitely feels as though when the hypertropia gets in control, the brain is able to engage the lazy eye more and the light gets brighter and more static.

The saccades are continually getting better, although it does feel like progress is slowing down slightly.  But morale is still high.  This is still by far the fastest progress that I'd ever had and if I get stereopsis in six months, I would still consider my experience with syntonics a smashing success.

The tricky thing, I suppose, is that the eye coordination and teaming has to be just about perfect in order to have true stereopsis.  Depth perception does improve before you have full stereo function, but you only have the real deal when the eyes are on the exact same page.

It's only been about three days that I've started using the magenta filters, but I think I may do another week with them when I start over on Sunday.  This is because they seem to be particularly effective.  I know that Heather said that she did only ten sessions with magenta filters when she got full stereopsis, and I did notice significant changes once I changed from light green to magenta.  So I may break the prescription and stick with magenta for a while.

The idea of suppression is a weird one, because one of the primary things that the brain does with the visual system is fill in gaps.  So with people who are strabismic who suppress--which is most of them--they're not just stereoblind: they're half blind.  They are only using half of the visual input that's available to them.  But it's not easy for them to know this because the brain so readily fills in the gaps for them.  Just like you're not readily aware of the blind spot that everyone has until you actively seek it out.  There is some peripheral vision, but being half blind really does suck.  And even weirder than that is the fact that both eyes are completely healthy.  How can I be half blind if I switch over to the other eye and it seems to work completely fine?

It's suppression.  It's the active cortical inhibition of incoming visual information.  The input is coming in, but the brain is blocking it.  So you really only have access to one eye at a time.  One of the things that I'm noticing now that I'm getting better is what happens when I alternate eyes.  Basically less is happening, because there's less of a difference when I change eyes because I'm using both.  Ultimately, when I'm done, I won't be able to alternate eyes, because they will both always be on.  I imagine that this is something that would be difficult for people who don't have stereoblindness to understand.  In fact, I remember having difficulty having my old vision therapist try to understand the things that I was seeing.  And she just had to keep saying 'I don't know.'.  It wasn't really all that reassuring.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

#18 session

Today's and last night's exercises were strenuous.  They were difficult.  But my hypertropia is a persistent little fucker.  I was having my picture taken for my license since I'm new to the Missouri area, and they had to do it twice because I was tilting my head too much.

I said before that I hadn't yet experienced mood swings, but that may be changing.  In the past few days I've been increasingly having the symptoms of roid rage, but without the roids.  I've been getting abnormally pissed off at people taking slow right turns.  Granted, some of these drivers really are retarded.  Today a numbskull tried to get into the elevator before I could get out.  I just ignored it and pushed past him.  I don't care.  Overweight Asian woman at the counter who can't get out of her own way.  I guess it doesn't matter that she was Asian.  Freakin' in the way people.  They're the worst.

Could it be me?  Could staring at a bright red light for 40 minutes a day do this?  I did notice the change in mood once I changed the filters from light green to magenta.  Maybe it's because I spent two hours at the DMV.  Or it could be because I'm up to my eyeballs in cum.  Or it could be a combination of all these things.

Anyway, the exercises were productive, I think.  Even though I'm getting a lot done, I'm beginning to think it might be a while longer until I have reached my goals.  It may be another three weeks, four weeks.  Still that's nothing, considering how long I've been doing this shit.

Monday, June 24, 2013

#17 session

This was a good session.  The hypertropia wasn't hard to correct.  The magenta light is still getting stronger as the wiring becomes more robust.  There is no more jumping.  The saccades were the best they'd ever been.  They were almost effortless.  They're not yet perfect on the extremes.  I notice that they're not perfect on the extreme left and right (up and down), but moving my lazy eye in that direction is no longer difficult.  I definitely feel like I hit the knee of the curve.

It's pretty exciting.  After thirty months of vision therapy I finally found something that works.  It's weird to think that through all this time it's going to finally happen.  There is a concern, however.  There is a small scratch in my mind that tells me that the cyclodeviation may complicate things.  But my hope is that the brain is flexible enough to deal with it.  If this works, I'm going to pimp the hell out of syntonics.  At this point, I'm still guessing about three more weeks.  We'll wait and see.

In a weird way this is all the doing of Tim Ferriss.  I'm a huge fan of the guy.  I recently got his 4-hour Chef book, which is a book about accelerated learning that is centered around cooking.  In the book he outlines a method for deconstructing skills so that you can focus bit by bit on the parts that matter the most.  In one of the areas he talks about interviewing people who are experts in whatever it is that you're interested in learning how to do.  He has a long list of extremely pointed and intelligent questions to ask.  The main idea is to learn about what they do versus everyone else.

I saw the brilliance in this and applied it to vision therapy.  So I started interviewing people.  The first person was Heather Essex Thomas.  I found out that she had success with something called a 'light tube'. I was thinking to myself 'what the hell is that?'.   What was interesting is how little time it took for her to have success with it.  It took ten sessions, which I thought was unbelievable because I'd done 30 months of vision therapy with very little success.  How could it be?  And yet, there she was, fully stereo capable.

So of course that piqued my interest.  I did more research on it, came to the conclusion that it was worth giving a try, and the rest is history.  In retrospect, it seems rather obvious to do what had finally occurred to me.  Ask someone for help who already had success with what it was that I was trying to get help with.  Oh well.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

#16 session

My vision is changing.  This is the second day with the Alpha Delta filters.  I'm amazed at how bright the magenta light is getting.

I was a little hungover when I did the exercise.  I drank a bit with my roommates last night.  I have noticed in the past that a heavy night of drinking can have an affect on vision progress in the next coming days.  It improves the progress.  It's often thought that drinking kills brain cells.  This isn't true.  It just damages the dendrites.  What I think it does is it shakes things up, so that old neural pathways are more easily forgotten, and newer neural pathways have to compete less.  So a heavy night of drinking maybe once a month may be beneficial.  Otherwise it's good to avoid alcohol completely.  It does seem to be the case for me.  That's bearing in mind that it's completely anecdotal evidence.

This session and the night before were pretty brutal.  It wasn't painful in the least, but it was stressful and tiring.  I notice that the light is continually getting brighter.  I'm amazed at how bright it is.  And also the way that I correct the hypertropia is changing.  I explained in previous entries how the lazy-eye-image keeps jumping up, drifts downward, and jumps back up continually.  Well that stopped.  My control is such that there's still a downward tendency, but I can keep it where it needs to be to avoid diplopia and it's no longer skipping.  That seems to be new.  Or it can be an artifact of being hungover.

Oh yeah, saccades.  They're still getting better.  They're almost perfect.  The only area where they're not quite there yet is the extreme right bottom and right top.

If I had to put a number on it at this point, I should have stereoscopic vision in around three weeks. I'll finish my month long syntonics course and I'll start over again.  Very likely it will be in my regimen until I've reached my VT goals.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

#15 session

There was nothing particularly notable about this session.  I swapped the filters out for Alpha Delta, which seem to filter the white light to magenta.  I just took a look at the last set of filters, Mu Epsilon, which is what I'm going to use next week.  They're just like Mu Delta--green--except a bit darker.  So each of the filters is either red or green.  Alpha Omega is dark red versus Alpha Delta.  Mu Epsilon is dark green versus Mu Delta.  Why they don't just say dark red, magenta, green, dark green, is something that I don't understand.  Maybe it's to make you not feel like such a sucker to spend $90 on these cheap cardboard filters.

It was a pretty bright red, compared to what I was used to seeing with the Alpha Omega filters.  There was some hypertropia, but it was easily controlled.  Nothing else to say about that.

I did saccades.  They went really, really well.  It's getting easier, like the effort required to do them is becoming less and less.

Friday, June 21, 2013

#14 session

This was a pretty good session.  It was in the Goldilocks zone: not too hard, not too easy.  I'm pretty sure it's going to stay that way until I have full stereo function.  This is because the hypertropia diminishes and the more control I have over the eye, the less correction I have to do, but the more actively I correct it.  So the result is that the stress level/exhaustiveness factor during the workout stays roughly the same.

There's not a whole lot to report on this session.  I made the decision that I am going to increase the number of minutes I spend on saccades from eight minutes to 12 minutes.  I've noticed that it's around the eight minute mark that the accuracy and speed improves significantly.  So I figure if I can give myself a few more minutes in that high-functioning zone, my brain may get accustomed to working that way and therefore, might want to continue doing it throughout the day.

There is an idea that I want to explore a little, which seems to be generally true: it's this idea that the visual system has a finite amount of energy available to work with at any given moment.  This is something that Michael Lievens talked to me about.  He said that this is why it's a good idea for many people who need corrective lenses to get special contact lenses and eyewear when doing vision therapy.  So for instance, if you can make it easier on your vision system by correcting farsightedness on one eye, that's less crap that your vision system has to deal with as a whole, and as a result there's more energy left for dealing with other aspects of vision, such as fusion.  I think this is one of the reasons why my old vision therapist wanted me to accommodate for my hypertropia with prisms: in order to save energy for the whole system so I could focus on other things, like fusion, vergence, and accommodation.

One of the reasons why I suspect this syntonics stuff is so effective is because it's correcting many different aspects of the vision simultaneously.  For instance, one of the main things it's correcting in my case is hypertropia.  The reason I talk so much about it is because it's the most easily detectable aspects of vision for me.  But there are other aspects that syntonics improves (as talked about in science papers) like the proportion of the retina that is usable by the brain.  When these issues are fixed, I suspect that there will be a lot more energy available at any given time for my brain to use in order to achieve fusion.  There won't be need for constant corrective action on the hypertropia so more energy will be available for fusion, vergence, and accommodation.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

#13 session

It seems like I've made way more progress in two weeks of vision therapy with syntonics than I had with 30 months without.  I really thought there was something wrong or ususual about my brain that was the reason for progress to be so slow, like my brain lacked plasticity or myelination.

This session went alright.  It only started getting a bit more challenging five minutes into the workout when I started turning up the volume on the lazy eye.  It seems as though I've gained quite a bit of conscious control over how much my brain engages that eye.  Before I talked about how I used visualization to turn that eye on, but now turning it on is much simpler.  It's almost as simple as flexing a muscle.  You just think it and it's done.

It reminds me of when I was around ten and I would watch my brother flex his pecs in the mirror (he was 14).  I was curious as to how he did that, because I didn't have conscious control over that muscle in isolation.  He said that what he did is that he clenched his fist, and then he noticed that if he clenched it hard enough his pec would contract.  He would notice the way that the pec felt when that happened and then he would try to replicate that feeling on its own without engaging any other muscle.  And it worked.  And I tried the same thing and with practice I got the same result.

That said, that feeling of gaining control over a part of your physiology that you previously didn't have control over, is a familiar feeling.  The feeling of being able to control the brightness of the light and control the brain's engagement of the lazy eye feels very similar to that feeling of being able to control my pecs.  I suspect that learning to control an unusual and untrained part of your physiology might be helpful to people who are trying to gain stereoscopic vision.  The process is similar.  Granted, I'm sure there's a hell of a lot more wiring that needs doing with vision since sight requires such precise control of the eyeballs.

The saccades exercise was better than ever before.  The hardest part is saccading to the extreme bottom right. But today it was very easy.  It's not perfect yet, but it's significantly better than it ever was.  I suppose that's proof that the issue wasn't mechanical but neurological.

There's another thing I want to mention that I thought about before, but hadn't got around to it.  They say that syntonics can cause mood swings and tiredness.  I haven't yet experienced either of those things.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

#12 session

This was a brutal workout.  It was the most brutal session I'd had since the initial workout, although it wasn't painful like the first.  It seems weird that it's getting harder all of a sudden, but I think I might know what's going on.  I'm gaining more control of the lazy eye, and so any small aberration is much more noticeable and so I'm much more actively correcting it.  Since I'm more actively correcting the hypertropia, the workouts are a lot more exhausting, but also more productive.  So it seems as though my progress is not only occurring very quickly, but it's also accelerating.

The analogy that I have in my mind is that of a spinning quarter on a tabletop.  As it spins at high speed, it's quiet.  But as it slows down, gravity's pull on the quarter overcomes the spin, and the quarter begins to wobble.  As it wobbles, it gets louder, until it's wobbling on the chosen side, it gets almost violently loud, depending on the surface.  This is because there is a battle of forces until one of them wins over.  Gravity wins out over the kinetic spin energy in the coin and it ends in a loud dissipation of energy until silence.

Something like that is happening here.  There are two forces that are fighting with each other in my visual system.  You've got something like inertia, which wants to keep my eye hypertropic.  And then you've got my consciousness on the other and an ever-increasing control over the lazy eye, which wants to get rid of the hypertropia.   After the initial session, the exercises were easy.  But I was slowly developing wiring and control over the lazy eye.  Now I think it's building to a critical mass in which the lazy eye is starting to be able to compete with the regular eye and it's now becoming violent again, until hopefully, silence.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

#11 session

Today was a productive session.  It seems as though the light coming into the lazy eye is continually getting brighter as its connection to my brain gets stronger.  I remember last night it seemed as though my hypertropia was worse than before because I was doing more conscious correction.  But I don't think it actually is worse.  I think I was just more aware of the hypertropia that is there because I'm continually occupying that eye more and more every day.  It's getting more sensitive to any small aberration that might be there.  In fact, I just got out of the bathroom where I looked at myself in the mirror.  The way that I gauge my hypertropia is by looking at myself in the eye in the mirror pitching my head downward so that I pitch my eyes upward in order to make eye contact with myself.  I find that this magnifies the appearance of any existing hypertropia, so this method works well as a means to gauge progress.  The hypertropia does seem to be diminishing very significantly.  I don't think it's reasonable to question whether it's happening any longer.

In case anyone wants to know what my hypertropia looked like before syntonics.  I think I'm 18 in that picture.  I'm now 29.

In a few weeks I'll post some before/after pictures for comparison.

The saccades were good.  I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, but they're continually getting better.  That is, before I mentioned that sometimes when I saccade to the target with my lazy eye there's no need for correction and I will land on right on target.  Well, I guess the only difference now is the frequency with which I land right on target.  That number is increasing.  So there's not a lot to say other than that.  I am barely containing my excitement.  Fuck yeah.

Monday, June 17, 2013

#10 session

The hypertropia was pretty strong for the first five minutes today, but it went down after that and was easily controlled.  I'm still focusing a lot on removing the blinders from the suppressing eye.  It's pretty amazing to me how much brighter it is when you're looking at a light with two eyes.  It's like BAM!  But at the same time, it's not dazzling.  It's just a little overwhelming.

I am noticing some of the symptoms of lowering suppression.  I am noticing the lazy-eye image quite a bit more.  It's not quite as sharp as the right-eye image.  Is that because of hyperopia on the lazy eye or anomalous correspondence between the two eyes?  Who knows.  Once this is all sorted out, I'm going to do another Bielschowski after-image test to see whether there is an remaining anomalous correspondence.

The saccades were pretty good.  The first few minutes weren't great, but as minutes went by they got a lot more accurate.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

#9 session

It turns out that I wasn't following the prescription properly.  I'm supposed to be doing 20 minutes twice a day, or 40 minutes once a day.  I confirmed this with both Michael and Heather, so it looks like I will be bumping up the load.  But I'll still be journaling once a day.

Today was a good session.  One of the things that was a little different from yesterday is that it took much less time to lower the suppression and see the intense green which is a result of the brain adding together the input of both eyes.  It was almost immediate today.  It was an unusual, but strangely welcoming feeling, like I'm getting this extra information that I'm just barely able to intercept.  But I can feel it, and it feels pretty good.

That extra input seems to be becoming a more solid and permanent feature of my vision without me asking it to be there.  I still have diplopia and it's becoming more pronounced because my brain's preference for the right eye input over the lazy eye input is diminishing.  I believe this is because the lazy eye is getting stronger, and its integration into my brain is getting stronger as well.  The intensifying of diplopia is something one should logically expect as both eye input channels get stronger and eye control isn't yet perfect.  Indeed, this is one of the things that Susan Barry said happened to her.  So I'm not worried.

I am noticing the intense green coming into the left side and I'm encouraging it, and trying to enhance it with my mind.  In the past few entries I'd been talking quite a bit about visualization.  Visualization is a technique that's been known about for a long time.  Arnold Schwarzenegger talks about it in his body building encyclopedia.  He talks about visualizing the muscle fibers contracting as you pump iron.  Cicero used visualization to help him memorize the different points he would talk about during speeches which would last three hours long.  Arthur Rubenstein, a holocaust survivor and concert pianist, never forgot how to play the piano, and seems to have barely lost any skill at all while he was in the prison camps, because he would constantly visualize himself playing the piano.

I'm not sure why visualization works, but it does.  It may be because vision is so tightly connected with our thinking.  It may be because the visual cortex is such a large part of our brain.  Maybe we're such visual creatures because the visual cortex was a giant proportion of our brains when we were monkey-like animals swinging from tree to tree.  After that, the prefrontal cortex grew and developed tight integration with the already existing visual system.  Maybe that's why visual information is so stimulating to us.

I want to say that when I use Syntonics, even though I'm staring at filtered light for twenty minutes, the key is to make it engaging, and think about what you're doing.  If you're looking at it with no mental activity, while multitasking or listening to music, the workout won't be as successful as it could be.  The more you can engage your brain and be focused on what you're doing, the better.  That's what I'm doing with visualization, because visualization is one of the most effective ways to engage the brain.  Non-passivity is key.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

#8 session

I think I'm on the right track with the regimen that I'm currently on: 20 minutes of light tube, ten minutes of saccades.  It may be premature saying this, but it feels like I hit on something.  I may be nearing the end of my VT journey.  It may be another month, or possibly a few weeks.  There really may be something to this Syntonics nonsense.  At the minimum, more studies should be done on its effects.  It's worth investigating.

This is my eight session so I swapped out filters from Alpha Omega to Mu Delta.   It's a light green filter, so the result is that the green circle I'm staring into is bright.  For about five minutes, I have pretty pronounced hypertropia on the left eye.  It takes quite a bit of effort to push the lazy-eye image upward (pushing the eyeball's pitch downward).  This may be a result of the fact that I didn't sleep well last night.   After ten minutes, I notice that it becomes easier to control, and I focus on mentally occupying my lazy eye.

There are few made-up techniques I use to do this.  One is that I mentally transport myself and mentally station myself exactly between the two eyes.  The other technique that I made up today is that I visualize two windows side by side to one another, each one representing an eye.  The right window shows the light and outside visual information.  The left side window represents my eye that is suppressing the input.  There are blinders on it.  Then I think of my mind as a sort of laser (wow, I'm a dork) that is knocking chunks of the blinders off.  Then I can correspondingly see the extra green light streaming in through the window.  I try to be detailed in the way that I visualize this, so that I can see green rays of light piercing through the irregular geometry of the holes in the blinders.  Then I visualize myself continually knocking chunks of blinder off the window so that I can see more with the other eye.

As the exercise continues, I suppress less and less, and the green input becomes more intense.  All of this takes quite a bit of mental energy because I'm processing and thinking about different things simultaneously, but it seems to work.  I'm definitely on the right track.

Also, the saccades that I did immediately afterward went rather well.  They seem to be improving noticeably every day.  If I haven't reached my goals by the end of the month long Syntonics course, I'll start over again because I'm making much faster progress with it than I did without it.  I'll just keep going until I stop noticing improvement.  Then I'll switch up the exercises and continue until I have success.

Friday, June 14, 2013

#7 session

This was a decent session.  I focused a lot on trying to occupy my lazy eye with my mind.  I was only good at that near the end of the session.

I may have overstated the diminishing hypertropia on my lazy eye.  It's still there significantly, and it's hard to say whether it's been diminishing at all, but maybe it's just variable and it's not a particularly good day.

The saccades are still good and getting better all the time.  It's hard to image that eventually it will be no effort.  It will be automatic.   Welp.  This is the last session with the Alpha Omega filters.  Ci vediamo domani.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A nice chat with Robert

I had a nice chat With Robert Connoy a few days ago and I wanted to relay some of the salient points of our discussion.

He's another example of how individual this strabismus/stereoblindness problem can be.  He's a 42 year old IT man who had strabismus all his life.  He was terrible as sports like me as a result of his bad vision.  He mentioned that he had at least one surgery, but I think it was later in life, I forget when.  In April of last year when he was in Berkeley California, he contracted the help of the university to develop stereopsis.

It sounds like it was a good experience, as I understand it.  He said that these people really knew what they were doing, and it only cost $60 per session because they were students.  The vision therapy techniques they employed were very 'textbook Bernell' (as Robert put it); that is, working with stereoscopes, sliding/stationary tranaglyphs, stereograms, anything that you would be able to buy from the Bernell website.  Despite the orthodoxy, the exercises were effective and they were impressed with the speed of Robert's progress.  He was quickly able to increase his divergence with sliding tranaglyphs, and was able to perceive layers of depth with crossed 3d images.  He does seem to have the equipment, it's just a matter of keeping it stable and available at all times.

After four months, he had to stop working with the university because his job moved to Minnesota.  He said that he may contract the help of a vision therapist in the area and then continue hitting the vision therapy sessions hard.  One of his prime motivators is that he wants to have his equipment work as intended.  I couldn't agree with him more.  It's this sense that we're missing out on a lot.  It bothers the hell out of me.  I remember being a kid with my brothers looking at one of those 3d image viewers and they were amazed by it.  Then I looked into it and I said 'What the hell?  What's so great about this this?'  And all of those years of sucking at sports.  And the way that Susan Barry describes looking at falling snow and looking through trees.  I'm just glad that because of science we finally have a chance of rectifying it.

I expressed that I'm optimistic for him.  He's able to fuse.  He's got a solid starting point.  Now it's just a matter of making the fusion robust and a permanent feature of his vision.  I brought up one of the salient things that Fred Brock said about vision therapy exercises.  The exercises should be in the Goldilocks zone: not too hard and not too easy.  You want to find the catching point, and then build on it.  This is sort of like an exercise that my brother had me do when I was learning how to drive with a manual transmission.  He would have me at a standstill, put the car in first gear, and then without using the gas pedal at all, pull out the clutch so that you find the point at which it engages the transmission.  Then he would have me stay there, and become familiar with the catching point, and then slowly experiment with seeing how applying gas changes the outcome.  Once I became comfortable and familiar with that catching point and starting the car from a standstill, switching the other gears was cake.

I try to do something similar with my vision therapy exercises.  It's one of the reasons that I play video games in 3d with my nVidia 3d Vision system.  First of all, it allows me to enjoy the fruit of my work.  I do get a decent 3d effect, even though it's nowhere near where it's eventually going to be.  And the other reason is that it engages my binocular depth neurons.  For some reason the artificial 3d effects seem to be more pronounced to me than looking at the world around me in real life.  This, in fact, jives with some of the things that I'd heard about with other people spontaneously developing stereopsis later in life.  I remember reading about stereopsis suddenly popping in as a result of watching 3d movies (this was recent--a 60 year old university professor) or a guy who specialized in working with 3d animation.  There's something about the engineering involved with these artificial stereoscopic effects that engages the binocular depth neurons in particular.  Using this as a catching point might be useful.  Robert expressed interest in the nVidia 3d Vision system.

I also suggested that saccades might be a good thing to try out as well in order to increase the speed and accuracy of his eyes.  He suggested that I do the crossed 3d images.  I think I'm going to give that a try, along with the sliding tranaglyphs.  My divergence isn't as great as it used to be.  Those should sort that out rather quickly.

#6 session

It's another day with the Alpha Omega filters.  Again, I did it with no distraction.  It was a little different than the previous sessions.  I push the lazy-eye image upward higher than the normal-eye image in hopes that it will stay in its preferred place with a kind of muscle memory.  I also make effort in trying to mentally occupy its place, in the same way that I occupy the place of the normal eye simultaneously.  This way, instead having to keep jumping back up to the normal-eye image, it should just stay there.  The lazy-eye image does continue to keep drifting downward, but the jumps are smaller and quicker, almost as if they will eventually disappear as the lazy-eye image continually stays on top of the other image.  This seems to be the way to do it.  It was a surprisingly good workout.

Immediately after I did this, I did eight minutes of saccades.  Those are getting better as well.  I do notice that I make a 'good' saccade; that is, when I saccade on target with both eyes I do sometimes get a sense of 'whoa', like I just got hit with something, and there is a slight sense of confusion as if my eyes are fighting for control with one another.  This is something that Heather said that she encountered a number of times when she was in the final stages of gaining stereopsis, so this seems to be an indicator of moving in the right direction.  Hopefully this continues to happen until my brain realizes that it can use both input streams.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

#5 session

There's not a lot to say.  It was a decent session.  The only thing notable to mention is the hypertropia, which is still there, but pretty controllable.  The left-side image wants to go down, because my left eye wants to go up.  So I consciously push the eyeball downward, causing the image to go up.  Then it drifts back down, and the conscious control mechanism causes it to sort of jerk back up.  It then slowly drifts back down, and the conscious control mechanism jerks the image back up.  That's how I keep both images level.  They're never able to stay on top of one another in a completely stable way.  This is probably because you cannot consciously make smooth eye movements unless you are tracking something.

That said, morale is high, even though the exercise is no longer painful or challenging.  I'm just going to do the month long course, and report on its effectiveness.

Immediately after the light tube, I did eight minutes of saccades.  I'm surprised by how much better I'm getting at that.  The main thing I pay attention to when doing the saccades is what the lazy-eye image is doing.  It's just getting quicker and more accurate.  Often when I saccade to the target, it saccades right on the target and there's no requirement for adjustment.  Most of the time I do have to adjust and it the lazy-eye image has to drift into place.  But it's getting much better.

Lately I've been consciously trying to make the shift in thinking of myself as a consciousness behind my right eye, to a consciousness between my two eyes.  I've never heard of this being mentioned in any kind of vision therapy or by my old vision therapist, but it makes sense to me that this should be something to focus on.  This is because people who have normal stereoscopic vision are a consciousness between the two eyes.  It seems to me that making the leap from a strabismic to a visually normal person requires this change in thinking.  So if you can perhaps visualize yourself as a consciousness distributed over two eyes during the day or during exercises, this should be helpful in developing stereo function.  If there's one thing that's occurred to me during this VT experience, it's that vision and thinking are very tightly connected.  Developing stereopsis requires breaking habits, and old ways of thinking, and I believe it's possible that developing stereopsis is so difficult for so many people because habits are tough to break.

That said, even though this is a realization I've come to on my own, it's a line of thinking that I'm going to pursue.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

#4 session

I usually listen to podcasts while doing vision therapy exercises, but I decided to stop that, at least while doing the light tube.

This was a pretty decent session.  I noticed that it was a bit harder and my hypertropia was more noticeable, but this was probably a result of having more attention allotted for the task.  I did it.  It wasn't particularly hard, but it does seem to be doing something.  When I'm in front of the mirror I usually check on the hypertropia of my left eye.  It does seem to be diminishing!

I'd been doing vision therapy for 2.5 years, which sucks.  Heather got her vision fixed in a year, and that's even with four months of being with a clueless vision therapist.  But if there's an advantage to having done vision therapy for as long as I have, it's that I'd had plenty of time for experimentation.  I'd become sensitized to the efficacy of different exercises.  It's easier for me to establish cause and effect.  And it seems that it's possible that in just a few treatments of Syntonics, a lot was done to ameliorate my hypertropia, relative half a year of intensive a prism-loading antihypertropic exercises. I'm not 100%, but I'm becoming more and more convinced.  We'll see where we are in a month.

Another thing--I've been doing saccades immediately after looking into the light tube.  That seems to be getting easier as well, in particular when the lazy eye is looking to the extreme right, and especially the extreme bottom right.  I'm getting quicker and more accurate.  This may be a good indicator that I can bump up the antisuppression exercises.

Monday, June 10, 2013

A nice chat with Heather

One of the strategies that I've been implementing in my vision therapy journey is to interview people who are having/have had success with vision therapy and figure out what they did.

Heather is one of those who had success with vision therapy.  She is now able to see hidden auto-stereograms, which is the ultimate test for stereo function.

Basically her story is that she was stereoblind for all her life.  However, interestingly, she never had double vision.  She's now 48-ish, I believe.  She read Susan Barry's book Fixing My Gaze, and decided to get a vision therapist.  So far, her story is very normal.  She got one, and after four months she realized that the vision therapist really didn't know what she was doing.  I get the impression that Heather is a seriously smart cookie.  I sort of had the idea that my vision therapist didn't know either, but I didn't know what to do, because any other vision therapist would be insanely expensive and it might not work.

Heather did something different.  Heather ended up talking with one of her doctors who suggested that she get a vision therapist who has expertise with adult strabismus, so that's what she did.  She noticed the difference between therapists immediately, and she had very quick success.  They gave her contact lenses so that she would be more easily able to fuse because they cover the periphery better than glasses.  They had her do a large number of regular vision therapy exercises, like antisuppression, and lots of motion tracking.

But she said what made the most difference was something called sensory training, which, as should put it, supercharges the brain and allows it to change at a much quicker rate.  It's a machine you lay down on.  You wear headphones that play a certain kind of music, and you stare up at projected lights that move around that you try to track.

She said this made a big difference.  After ten sessions of that ($3,000), she went home and she started doing sessions with a light tube which she looked at with magenta filters.  After about ten sessions of working with the light tube, she had stereoscopic vision.  She said that going to the grocery store was extremely overwhelming because there were so many things floating around.  She said that there were certain exercises that were very uncomfortable because they showed too much space.  She also mentioned looking at trees, which is what you hear people who gain stereopsis later in life talk about a lot.  She said that these things are no longer overwhelming and she can deal with it fine now.  She says it's a very different way of seeing.  Awesome.

What's interesting about her to me is that stereoscopic vision never 'popped in', as you often hear in stories like this.  Her stereo vision just got better and better, gradually, albeit, quicker at some times than others.  Another thing that was interesting to me is that she said that the best part of fixing her vision was the social aspect.  She said that it's now much easier to talk and interact with people because there's less confusion as to what she's looking at.  She said that before people would get confused with which eye they should look at, and as a result they would look away.  But that no longer happens.  That was the main perk.  The vastly improved vision was just the icing on the cake.

Aside from learning about how things worked from her, there was another important takeaway from all of this.  Gaining stereoscopic vision is often not a straightforward task and vision therapists are not equally skilled or experienced.  In fact, a good number of them are surprisingly clueless.  I do believe that it is insidious for a lot of them to market themselves as professionals who are able to fix this kind of condition when they really don't know what they're doing.  It is insidious for a number of reasons.  It's insidious first of all, because they're taking advantage of people who are vulnerable and often desperate.  Yes, I believe I can fix you. I know what I'm doing.  It's insidious secondly because vision therapists are expensive.  It cost me $7,000 for an inexpensive vision therapist for about one year.  It's insidious thirdly because it's time consuming and emotionally draining.

I had this conversation with quite a few of the people I've met who have strabismus, and they second these sentiments.  It really is a terrible thing for hapless folk to fall victim to.  How does one know whether they have the right vision therapist?  I had the right idea what I asked my vision therapist for the first time whether she had experience/success stories in dealing with people who had strabismus/stereoblindness.  She said no, but that she knew what she was doing.  I thought I could make up for the lack of experience by being extra vigilant and putting in more effort.  But as I've come to learn, picking your vision therapist is the most important part.  It's not the effort that you put in.  Believe me, for how much money you're going to put into this, you won't have problems putting in the required amount of effort.  The most important part is picking someone who has experience and success stories in treating people with adult strabismus.

#3 session

This session was almost the exact same as the previous session.  It was pretty easy.  I cannot seem to replicate the extreme pain that I encountered in the first session.  There is still the hypertropia, but it seems to be quite a bit less pronounced.  What this should mean is that I shouldn't see the hypertropia when I look at myself in the mirror, or it should be less obvious.

This does seem to be the case.  I have noticed that in the past four or five months that my hypertropia has gone down quite a bit, but that could be a result of the anti-hypertropia prism exercises that I'd been doing.  That said, after that first session, the hypertropia seems much easier to control than ever before.

Also, when I do saccade exercises, I notice that my lazy eye is much quicker and more accurate.  It does seem, from my perspective, that this is a direct cause-and-effect relationship to what I'd been doing with the light tube.  I feel like I can establish cause-and-effect because it's only been three days that I'd been doing this.

As I get better at exercises, I begin to notice that I'm consistently faced with new choices in the way that I use my eyes.  For example, I have diplopia, which means that I see two of everything at all times and one of the constant goals that I have when exercising is to use the correct 'posture' so that the two images (one per eye) are laying on top of one another so that I don't have diplopia.  When I do saccades, my normal eye instantly and perfectly jumps to the target, while the lazy eye image lags behind, and instead of instantly being on the target, it sort of lazily drifts toward where the other eye already was.  The mentality I always had was to just get that lazy eye where it's supposed to be as quickly and accurately as possible.  But lately, I'd been thinking about it differently.  Instead of commanding it to do what it should be doing, I've started to be able to occupy its place mentally.  This enables me to much more naturally control it.  But really, this is the way I'm supposed to be.  I'm not supposed to be behind my right eye (non-lazy eye).  I'm supposed to be behind both eyes.  I'm not supposed to prefer one eye over another.  It's just difficult because this is the way it's always been.

Regardless, I'm pretty excited about the light tube and seeing what kind of effects it may have on me.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

#2 session

This session was a lot easier.  I stared into the dark red glowing circle, and pushed my left eye downward.  This time it wasn't so difficult.

One of the things that's mentioned about Syntonics is that it can cause mood swings and cause you to sleep more.  I woke up to texts this morning, but I am a little tired.  We'll see what happens.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

#1 session

I purchased a light tube called the Colorboy from Optomatters in Belgium.  It, along with the filters, cost me roughly $1,000.  It's a heavy gray metal tube that looks and feels like military equipment.  All it is, is a tube with a light in it, which is powered with an external power supply--sort of like a laptop.  And I spent $1,000 on it.  I know, I'm smart.

The filters that I ordered with it filter the white light to different colors.  They're labeled as Alpha Omega, Mu Delta, Alpha Delta, and Mu Upsilon.  I have only a vague idea of what I'm doing, which is par for how I've lived my life so far.  There isn't much information available out there.  A friend of mine, Michael Lievens, who is a strabismic like myself, has a vision therapist who gave the following prescription.

Alpha Omega for the first week consecutively.
Mu Delta for the second week consecutively.
Alpha Delta for the third week consecutively.
Mu Upsilon for the fourth week consecutively.

So you power it on, and you stare at the light while wearing one of the filters for 20 minutes.  I'm looking down the tube at a red circle of light (Alpha Omega), which is somewhat dim, because the filters are dark.  The immediate thing I notice is the hypertropia on my left eye.  It wants to go up relative to my right eye, so the result is that its input looks down, relative to the input from the right eye.  So I try to fix this by consciously controlling that eye, pushing it down, so that the images of each eye lays on top of one another.  This takes effort.  For about five minutes, it's tolerable.  By the time the buzzer goes off, it's just about unbearable and I'm beginning to sweat.  The rest is most welcome.

That's my initial impression.  It is a brutal workout, which I find promising.  That's one of the things that I had always worried about when doing my normal vision therapy exercises: the exercises I did didn't feel very difficult or strenuous.  Were they doing anything?  Usually gains require pain.  But boy, have I found a new source of pain.

Most of what I'd heard about Syntonics caused my bullshit detectors to ping all over the place, especially when I read about how it's used by chiropractors and how it's used to ameliorate all kinds of things (among autism).  That said, I still am skeptical about it, but I decided to give it a try anyway since I know people who have used it and say that it's helped.  It's just another experiment.  Here goes nothing, but hopefully something.