Monday, December 30, 2013

Random thought about stereopsis and color vision

I had an exciting thought the other day when I was thinking about the different things that people talk about when they've gained stereopsis.

One of the things is what Heather said about how her perception of color had improved.  It makes sense why this would happen, because fusion would increase the resolution of all facets of vision--not just acuity.  After all, now all of a sudden, you're processing information from twice as many cone cells.

Then that made me think about myself when I was at MEPS (military entry processing station).  When I was 19 I had thought about going into the Air Force.  MEPS is where the military is able to put a dollar amount on how much you're worth to them.  You do urinalyses, they test your hearing, mental faculties, they test for physical abnormalities by stripping you to your underwear and having you walk like a duck in a room full of other men.

They also put you through a battery of vision tests.  I did alright, but I failed two tests: depth perception (obviously), and color vision.  I'm not color blind exactly, but instead, I have color deficiency.  It surprised me to learn this because I always thought that I saw colors vibrantly.  But apparently, according to this test I don't.

That is the type of color test that I did.  I would have failed at this particular test.  I do not see the hidden number or letter that's in it.  Is it a two, by chance?  No!  It's a three.  Right?  /facepalm

But I wonder if the reason I'm color deficient is because I'm only using half of my cone cells (cones, not rods are the cells that provide a sensitivity to color).  It'll be interesting to know whether my color perception is enhanced like Heathers to the degree that I'm able to pass the color test.  That's another question that I want answered!--and another answer that I expect to have answered soon.   The day can't come soon enough.

#197 session: feeling the burn

Things are going very well.  Seeing progress occur with such rapid speed, and yet knowing that I could still be months away from my goal makes me realize how much has to be done.

It is true that I'm still noticing significantly more information coming in every day.  It's something I look forward to.  It helps counteract the other part that says 'I just want this shit to be done!--why is this taking so long!'.

When I get to the movement light tube exercises after Columns, Bouncy, and saccades, I am now immediately at what I call 'approximate fusion'.  Approximate fusion is a state that I've identified where I can consider what I see as a single vision, but it's not perfect.  There is some ghosting.  When I pull myself out of the tube and look at an object across the room, it is double (but the double images are close to one another).  Just last week I would only be near approximate fusion near the end of the workout (about 60 minutes).  But now I launch into that state immediately when I begin the workout.  The rest of the 60 minutes is available for fine-tuning and perfecting my 'approximate fusion' so that it is can be called plain old 'fusion'.

The movement light tube exercise is a good workout.  I am recently brought back to the ideas presented in this blog entry:
  • I fix with the normal eye as always, but then I pay special attention to the lazy-eye image. 
  • I try to make the scene as bright as possible. 
  • I pay attention to the way the muscles in the lazy eye feel and then I pay attention to the way that the feeling of the muscles relates to the movements of the lazy-eye image. I put as much focus as possible on that relationship.
By doing this, especially as of late, I am experiencing a burning or straining type of sensation on the lazy eye which is very similar to that what one would experience when lifting weights.  It feels good.  I feel it especially when I make these long, slow, stretching movements while focusing on the feeling of the muscles in the lazy eye and trying to control the lazy-eye image to prevent diplopia.  This is the kind of strain to follow.  

Then, as with building muscle in the traditional gym-sense, you get stronger during the periods of rest.  Except here, you're not building muscle tissue as much as you're building muscle control.  But actually, you're probably building muscle in the eye as well.  ├Łou don't really notice the effects of the exercise until a day or so later after the body's response mechanisms have had a time to make the appropriate adjustments.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

#192 session: nothing interesting to report, you can skip this entry

Make no mistake, progress is still occurring at a rapid clip, it's just that there's nothing interesting for me to say.

I'm still noticing a small amount of hypertropia on the left eye.  Also, if I relax and let me eyes do what they will, I get the same tendency for the left-eye image to go down and to the right.  But subjective experience is positive.  I am noticing more depth and objects appear to be more solid and in their own space.  Also, games in stereo are more stimulating.  I'm definitely seeing better than ever before at this moment.  I can say that just about every day lately, and each time I say it it's true.  So that's great.  What else...

The light tube.  That's looking pretty good.  There's a lot less unconscious movement, which is particularly good for when I type things.  That driftage problem I'd had for a long time is wayyy down.

I can feel myself intercepting a lot more information, especially when doing the light tube exercise.  I'm exhausted.  I've been sleeping a lot lately.  I'll take that as a positive indicator.  I wonder where I'll be in a week from now.

Friday, December 20, 2013

#187 session

I'm experiencing steady improvement.  Since I've begun doing tDCS it feels like I'm starting from scratch.  Before I made progress, but the progress seemed superficial.  Now I can feel the changes occurring in my brain.  It's a little disconcerting because my brain and mind are both changing and that has consequences on my concept of self-identification.  It's true that we're not the same person as we were years ago.  We're always changing.  It's just that tDCS has accelerated that change.  Regardless, they're all positive changes.

I've been giving myself a pretty big dose of tDCS--80 minutes at 2 mA per channel every day.  Every day I've been noticing more information coming in: more depth, and more information.  That's my relatively meaningless subjective data.

As far as objective--well, I've still been taking photos of my eyes roughly every three to four days.  I have tons of pictures of my eyes.  It'll be interesting to see how the changes correspond to what exercises and routines I've been doing.  My guess is that I'm going to see a sudden sharp fixing of the alignment around the time that I started tDCS.  That'll be some good science.

Another objective marker is how long it takes for me to get approximate fusion with the light tube movement exercises.  The experience goes something like this.  I'll start the exercise, and there will be some defusing, but as I continue the defusing goes down.  By the end of the exercise--40 to 60 minutes later--there's hardly any defusing.  Then the next day when I do the same thing, I'll experience something similar, except it takes less time to get to approximate fusion.  And also, the final state that I'm in when it's quitting time--that state of fusion becomes more rock solid than last time.

This is why I have been looking forward to the movement light tube exercise.  No matter how my day went I get to check in and visit on my progress.  The news is always positive.  When you see the objective improvement paired with subjective improvement, it gives a real psychological boost. It's nice.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Thoughts on the process of gaining stereopsis

There's a weird conflict in the way that I have historically thought about the process of gaining stereopsis.  There's the way that I am naturally inclined to think about gaining stereopsis, which is grabbing the eye and making it move properly sort of like how you would learn a mechanical skill involving the manipulation of an external object, like a bow, gun, or instrument.  Then there's the other way, which I think is the better way to think about gaining stereopsis, which is mentally occupying the eye and then letting the mind's control over the eye occur naturally.

Gaining stereopsis is really different from learning a skill which involves the manipulation of an external object because gaining stereopsis means recovering control of a primary sense organ which is at the very seat of our consciousness.  It's normal to think that the 'I' is something in between our functioning eyes, or in the case of strabismics, to think of the 'I' as something behind the fixing eye.  And it's because vision is the primary way we get around.   Our visual cortex is huge.  It occupies about 30% of the cerebral cortex's volume.  So whatever the visual cortex is doing, it's probably important and it's doing something that requires a lot of work.

The other day I was thinking about what it means to gain stereopsis, what's involved, and what's going on in the brain.  It's got to be a significant wiring overhaul.  Most likely recovering stereopsis means reclaiming neurons for the purpose of using both eyes and integrating their input.

The other day when I was driving, I took turns closing each of my eyes. Doing that made me realize that my visual field has significantly expanded.  When I closed an eye, I realized that I could see quite a bit, but it wasn't nearly as much as it was when I was using both.  It's as if my consciousness had expanded, and as if the observer was suddenly larger.  There's a lot more of me that's 'there'.  This must be related to what Heather said about seeing in stereo and how everything is much more real, and there.  And what Susan Barry said about how seeing in stereo made her feel like she was in the world instead of just occupying and observing it.  There's something fundamental to consciousness that's going on.

I wonder if visualizing the observer becoming bigger could accelerate vision therapy results, if I could visualize creating more space for the bigger observer.  It would have a correspondence with the idea that the process of gaining stereopsis involves claiming neurons and more neural 'real-estate' for new purposes.

#183 session: productive weekend

I took off a few days of work to tend to some personal things which involved me doing quite a bit of driving.  It was about two days of straight driving--12 hours per day.  I figured that would be a good opportunity to keep my eyes diverged and exercise pointing my eyes at things close nearby like the dashboard, and things far away, like the other vehicles and signs.

I did this with my tDCS device running, of course.  I did 20 minute sessions on each o1 and o2 region roughly every two hours.  Man it pumps you up.  It's sort of like taking amphetamines except it's legal.  The toll guy gave me a double take when he realized I had things strapped to my head with wires dangling down.  I giggled to myself like a schoolgirl.  

I got to the destination, took care of business, and came back.  I got a ton of VT and tDCS done over that time.  I also got pretty familiar with the secondary effects of tDCS--which if you combine it with moderate caffeine intake--you become really wired.  You can do quite a bit without experiencing any kind of fatigue.  But when it's time to sleep, man you sleep really well.

The primary exercise that I seem to look forward to is the light tube movement exercise because it gives me good feedback. Each time I do it, the exercise ends with less defusion and less ghosting.  That is, by the end of the exercise, the single image of the glowing circle is more robust.  It's getting close to being rock solid.  The other day I experienced a calmness which came with the thought 'I don't know when it's going to happen, but it's going to happen.'

What else... the great progress has come with exhaustion.  I don't resist it.  I just allow myself to sleep a lot.  That's probably the right thing to do.

Approximate fusion at 35 mA*min

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

#178 session: what tDCS seems to do

I decided that I'm no longer going to use the Oz position, but instead focus on o1 and o2.  They seem far more effective and I notice the results are much greater the next day.

Yesterday I was quite frustrated because my eyes were exhausted as a result of not being able to diverge sufficiently.  Combine that with the fact that my suppression is way down, I had some really annoying diplopia.  But Monday and a few days before that I had the anode on the Oz position.  I had been using that position because I had heard about researchers giving anodal stimulation on that region to help people gain stereopsis.  But it doesn't really make sense to do that.  The brain is split in two hemispheres.  You want to stimulate the visual cortex on the two different hemispheres which are located on each side of the head.

Yesterday I went back to the original o1 and o2 positions that I've already had quite a bit of success with.  This time I didn't split the anode.  I used two anodes and two cathodes since my Chattanooga device has dual channels.  One anode on the o2 with its cathode crossing to the left side of the neck with the other anode on o1 with its cathode crossing to the right side of the neck, creating an 'X'.

I could tell the difference in the anode placement almost immediately, and certainly during the day today.  I just noticed much less fatigue.  It's a lot easier to point my eyes at the same spot in space.  I'm a lot less irritable today, despite the fact that I didn't sleep too much--on a side note, try to do tDCS preferably several hours before you sleep--they don't call it transcranial direct current stimulation for nothing.  It's stimulating.

What tDCS seems to do is boost the amount of energy that the visual system has.  I'd talked about the concept of energy in the visual system in entries long ago, and how for vision therapy success, strategies are often implemented to conserve energy in order to make fusion easier.  The idea is that your visual system has a finite amount of energy which can be used for different functions like accommodation, fusion, movement, vergence, and so on.  One way to conserve energy is by cutting down on the amount of compensation the visual system has to make by correcting any kind of refractive errors with contact lenses.  One of the things that my vision therapist wanted me to do was use prism glasses to compensate for hypertropia that I had so the vision system could put more of its energy into fusion.  The idea was energy conservation.

When I've done a good tDCS session, it seems there's more energy available for the visual system.  It's much easier to fuse, and point my eyes at things so tasks which would ordinarily be exhausting aren't as exhausting.   Today I'm not nearly as exhausted I was yesterday.  I believe it's a result of the change in anode positioning.  Yesterday when playing XCOM after my exercises I noticed more depth than ever.  It was pretty badass.  I was noticing depth in places where I don't normally notice it as well.  Whenever I experience new levels of depth I get excited because it's so stimulating.  And it's going to get stronger than this, possibly a lot stronger.  So it was a good way to end a frustrating day.

Monday, December 9, 2013

#176 session

I'm making pretty good progress with my current regimen.  It's usually these three things--five minutes of Columns, five minutes of Bouncy with a six diopter prism on the left eye with the base facing to the right, another five minutes of Bouncy without a prism, five minutes of clown saccades, and 40 minutes of light tube movement exercises with an anode on the Oz region and cathode on the back of my neck at two milliamperes.

I did notice quite a bit more information today.  The double vision has gone wayyy down.  Now it's just that I have some ghosting, meaning that the image produced by the lazy eye isn't quite at the same speed as the regular eye, so it sort of trails behind it.

I got my Chattanooga Ionto device today.  It was sort of a bitch to figure out because there are no instructions.  I was wondering why it kept beeping at me when I turned it on.  It's because it senses whether it has the proper conductance before it passes current.

This turns out to be a very handy feature.  About midway through the session it started beeping at me.  I figured this had something to do with conductance, so I pressed the sponge electrodes a little on the head to get the saline to soak in more.  That did the trick.  It's just that I needed more saline.  Of course, you don't want to use too much saline, because then it can trickle down from the Oz position down to the neck creating a path for the electrons to follow over the skin--not what you want.  You want the electricity to bury in from the anode, under the skull, travel through the brain, and come back out through the cathode.  That's actually why it's recommended that you have at least eight centimeters of space between the anode and cathode.  Anyway, the impedance detector helps tell you whether you're doing it right.  I'm glad I got that device.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

#174 session: sensory fusion driving motor fusion

I hadn't used too much tDCS this week since I got freaked out by the tdcs-kit putting out 322 mA. But my digital multimeter just came in and I found out that it's providing the correct amperage.  So I'll be doing that until the Ionto device comes in the mail.

Despite the fact that I haven't done tDCS for four days, I'd still been seeing continual changes in my vision which seem to be a result of the increased brain plasticity from the prior tDCS sessions.

Last night, for instance, I noticed something new while I was driving to see The Octopus Project.  There is a normal tendency, when I am paying attention to something (in this case driving) for my lazy eye to move off in a different direction and for it to do its own thing.  In other words, in order for my eyes to gaze correctly, attention is required.  What seems to have happened is that my suppression has decreased to the point that when I divert my attention to a different task and my lazy eye begins to wander, the resulting visual conflict grabs my attention back to the eye and then I must gaze correctly.  Otherwise, I get really annoying double vision.  So in this case, sensory fusion is driving motor fusion.  It's sort of like the brain is saying to the eye 'Hey, you can't just go off and do whatever you want now.  You're part of a team.'

It's interesting.  I talked a while back in this video about how motor fusion and sensory fusion go hand in hand with one another.  I mentioned how I would notice that sometimes, if I had a particularly good vision therapy exercise which exercised my motor ability, that the next day I would notice more information pouring in as a result: more depth, more detail, and all that good stuff.  That's an example of motor fusion driving sensory fusion.  So it seems that motor and sensory fusion can drive each other in both directions.  Interesting!

There's no turning back now.  He's officially joined the team.  It's just a matter of increasing the power and increasing the precision.

The point where I'm at right now reminds me of Fixing My Gaze where Susan talks about the point just before she gained stereopsis.  (It's weird how many things I'm able to recall about that book.)  She said that it gets a little confusing because the suppression is at a very low level--just about to go away completely--and yet the fusion isn't quite stable.  So things can get a little, I don't know, shaky, maybe is the word.  It's really exciting to finally be where I'm at and be able to document and articulate and understand what's going on.  I really had doubts that I would ever get here.  Man!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Reddit discussion

For those who may be interested in discussion about tDCS, I started a thread in the tDCS subreddit about using tDCS in combination with vision therapy.

Here it is, yo.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

#171 session

I'll start making posts more frequently because now more interesting things are beginning to happen; there are more things on my mind; and I'm excited and need an outlet.

Today I saw more depth, more detail, and more information.  It's exciting.  So many things are going through my mind right now: I'm going to have stereopsis soon; it's going to be awesome; I'm going to be able to move on with my life--but with a life that's significantly improved.  Fuck yeah.

I've said those things before.  More depth, detail, and information--but now it's different.  My eyes are now pointing where they're supposed to point.  It's almost as if before the other eye was somewhere else.  It was right there; I could see it, but somehow it was in a different universe.  But that's changed.  Now when I put my attention on that eye, it's right there; there's very little adjustment needed.  The attention can be on the eye almost uninterrupted--which I suppose is the whole point of all of those exercises.  Now, it's almost like I can reach out and grab my eye with one of my hands and have its command.

I can see what people are talking about when they say that it's very stimulating.  Normally I'm a very fearless and reckless person, but I could see that changing when I have stereopsis.  When I was playing XCOM: Enemy Within, there are cutscenes with aliens running around after you've completed your turn.  Before it was nothing.  But now--and I'm just beginning to have stereopsis--I'm getting sort of freaked out by the aliens.  Before they were just a thing--a painting on a wall.  But now it's like FUCK it's in my face!  Jesus shit!  It's going to take some getting used to for sure.  Jesus Christ... Fuck.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

#170 session: tDCS works very well

It took at least a few sessions to get the electrode positions right.  I initially had the anodes too high up, relative to the inion--the part of the occipital lobe distinguished by a bone that sticks out a little.  But then I looked at the map again and realized that the o1 and o2 regions are on the same latitude lines.  It's just that one needs to be to the right and the other to the left.  I also kept with using the two anodes instead of one on the right side of the head (to integrate the left eye).  Further research indicates that each hemisphere processes each eye (probably for redundancy), so it makes sense to stimulate the visual system on both hemispheres.

Anyway--holy crap.  tDCS works.  It definitely works.  I'm pretty sure it's not just my imagination.  Objects appear bigger and clearer.  I thought, when looking at the text on my computer screen, that I had increased the size of the rendering on my browser, but then I realized that as I looked around the screen that even the task bar looked bigger.  And everything looks better, and I'm getting more 'pop' when playing games in stereo.

There's quite a bit more that I want to say about tDCS and its effects, but it's still early and I don't want to regret saying stuff.  But its effects seem to be wide-ranging.  And the reason I think for this is because brain tissue is very resource-hungry.  For example, it's often cited that the brain is three pounds, or two percent of the body's weight, but it uses around 25% of the body's metabolic energy.  If you can make the brain work more efficiently by powering it with a 9-volt battery, then those resources which would normally get broken down and eaten by the brain are free to be used by other body processes.  Anyway, that's just some interesting speculation on my part.

I'm pretty sure that tDCS is helping bring me closer to my goals at a much accelerated rate.  It's very exciting.  Of course, it's important that you know what you're doing, and that you don't apply more than two milliamperes of current to your noggin.  I recommend that you have at least have a working knowledge of Ohm's Law to be safe.  But as long as you apply current within the correct parameters, tDCS is safe, at least according to the research.  Before you begin applying current to your noggin, do your research.  But it is extremely exciting stuff.  Hah...


There's something I want to add.  Every time before you begin a tDCS session you should test the current with a digital multimeter--even if your tDCS device has a current indicator.  The reason for this?  The tDCS kit that I bought ($40) malfunctioned and I think that instead of putting out the normal 2 milliamperes, it started putting out 340 milliamperes.  When I plugged in the battery I got a jolt that was somewhat jarring.  It was like a static shock, but the area around the cathode was feeling the current in a strong way which was very uncomfortable.

The good thing about this experiment is that I learned that tDCS is not bullshit, but an incredibly useful tool.  Because it's extremely useful, I decided to invest in a real tDCS device.

It's expensive ($340), but I've already spent something like $7,500 on vision therapy, so whatever.  This, at least, is something I know which works.  I also bought this multimeter that I'm going to use to test the current before every session.