Sunday, March 30, 2014

#290 session: taking a week off

I'm going to take a week off from Syntonics.  I'm going to instead do 15 minutes of finger monster and five minutes of saccades under stimulation.  Then in the evenings perhaps spend another 20 minutes doing antisuppression Solitaire and Metro 2033: Last Light in stereo 3d.

I stopped doing light tube exercises for about two days while upping finger monster.  That actually seemed to make a very significant difference.  Maybe it's because light tube exercises are intensely stimulating, and thus exhausting to the visual system and doing it every day is just overloading.  Perhaps there's a good reason why people often do vision therapy three days a week for 20 minutes.  Perhaps it's possible to have too much of a good thing.  We'll see how this experiment pans out.

Oh yeah, vision is better than ever in the past two days.  My stereo perception has improved in a noticeable way in the past week, and past two days in particular.

Monday, March 24, 2014

#284 session: moving forward

Yup.  Still here, still moving forward.

There are a few new tricks that I've learned, I think.  One is a trick that I learned while doing that finger monster tracking exercise.  I've been doing my best to be receptive about the way my eyes feel while doing the exercise.  When I move the monster to my suppressing left eye side it feels a bit uncomfortable and strange.  I should be able to see it very well because it's inches in front of the eye, but I can't because that eye is effectively blind (suppressed at the cortex level--not actually blind-blind).  

So I focus on that area quite a bit and I try to focus and see it as much as possible even though it's difficult.  Through the week I've been doing that I've noticed substantial improvement in control and the range with which I can look at objects with both eyes.  I actually do that exercise for ten minutes now that I've come to the conclusion that it's really doing something valuable for me.  I'm going to keep doing that until I've absorbed the exercise so that it's no longer uncomfortable and awkward.  It shouldn't feel awkward and it shouldn't be difficult to see something that's right in front of my face!

Another thing that I started doing is about five to ten minutes of anti-suppression Solitaire.  I see quite a bit of black, which means that I'm still suppressing quite a bit.  It's been a while since I've done anti-suppression exercises like this since I haven't found them to be useful in the past.  But I suspect that now is the time that I start doing it because my eye control is much better than it used to be so, in theory, my brain should be able to roll with the exercise better.  Before what I think was happening is that I would do the anti-suppression exercises, but because my eye control was pretty bad, I would still get a lot of visual conflict, and so that visual conflict would trigger suppression.  One step forward, one step backward.  But because now as a result of my much improved eye control, my visual conflict has gone down, I'm thinking that it might be the right time to start doing this type of anti-suppression exercise.  One step forward, another step forward, and so on, without the backtracking, is my reasoning and hope.  

I do that for about ten minutes followed by playing some Metro 2033: Last Light in stereo 3d.  This is by far one of the best games I've ever played, period.  It renders in stereo with zero glitches or weird graphical artifacts.  The visual quality and atmosphere of the game is on a level that I haven't seen in any other game.  To be sure, it is a GPU killer, especially while rendering in stereo 3d.  The good thing about playing games in stereo is that they are designed to stimulate the binocular depth neurons, and so they are very good at producing powerful stereo 3d effects--even more than what you'd normally see in real life.  So even with someone like me who is stereo-challenged, I can still get a reasonably decent stereo effect as a result of the high power of the stereo cues.   So when my eyes improve, the gaming experience improves quite a bit, especially when playing the game immediately after doing anti-suppression Solitaire.  It's something to look forward to.  

Thursday, March 13, 2014

#273 session: less suppression, better control

I saw quite a bit of improvement from Saturday to Wednesday.  I've noticed quite a bit less suppression and control that is quite improved.  This may be a result of making the switch to the bright red/orange Alpha Delta filters.  It's hard to say exactly how my vision has improved over that time, except that objects seem more real, it feels like more information is coming in, and double vision has improved quite a bit.  My eyes (my cosmesis) look better than ever too.

A number of entries ago, I said something about having "developed a binocular 'instinct'."  It's pretty bad wording because instinct actually means the precise opposite of what I meant.  Instinct, by definition, isn't something you learn.  But it doesn't matter.  I think it's pretty clear what was meant.  What I meant is that binocular vision is beginning to make sense to me.  Seeing in stereo is starting to make sense.

Lately I've been thinking of my visual system as a single channel, and I'm trying to squeeze all of the available input into that single channel.  That means paying attention through both eyes, and noticing the particular way it feels while I do that.  Of course, I do that while trying to keep the light tube image accommodated and single.  This is what I call practicing good binocular posture.

But that feeling, and that binocular way of using the eyes is becoming habitual.  It's pretty easy to get into that mode while doing the light tube because that's all I'm focused on.  It's sort of similar to meditation in that sense.  The more you do it, the better you get and the more quickly you can achieve the meditative state.  I can tell that this practice is spilling over into how I use my eyes during the day because of the improved vision.

One of the ways I've noticed this is that it's becoming easier to read print with both eyes simultaneously.  Normally this is not permitted because of the out-of-sync accommodation problem.  When I try to read with both eyes, both sets of print can't get into focus, so the result is a blurry mess.  If only the blurry set could get on the same page as the sharp set, it would be great.  That's still the case, but it's gone down significantly.  I can only imagine how good it's going to look once the accommodation reflex is fully calibrated.

Also, I'm noticing that the range with which I can look at objects with both eyes simultaneously is widening substantially.  There are a few hard spots, such as to my bottom left, and top left, but they're getting much better.  The past five days or so have been quite good.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Does stereo vision make that big of a difference?

I remember having a conversation with Ewa, a member of DIY Vision Therapy, a long time back about the visual difference between having stereopsis and having stereoblindness.  She asked the question 'Does it really make that big of a difference?' or 'I wonder if it really makes that big of a difference.'  I made some long response (heh), about how yes, it makes a giant difference.

The first hint that I got that they are very different ways of seeing is when I was a child and when my brothers and I were sharing a View-Master (one of those red things that shows you joint pictures with stereo disparity cues).  When they looked in, they were in awe, clearly impressed by what they saw.  When I looked in, I was like 'okay, there's a picture of a car... it looks fine, what's the big deal?'  Of course, my brothers and I were like three or four years old and so lacked the vocabulary to explain the difference.

Then when I was around five or six on vacation with my family I saw a row of people watching a 3d movie at Universal Theaters.  The entire row was freaking out as though things were coming at them within inches of their faces.  When six year old me watched the movie, everyone around me reacted similarly.  I just sat there.  What the hell?

Later in life when I learned about my condition, and had read Fixing My Gaze, I became aware of all of the different accounts of those who had been stereoblind and through one method or another recovered stereopsis.  These people describe the difference between the two ways of seeing as fundamentally different, with stereopsis being vastly superior.  A common response is 'This is how normal people see?!!'  Then they want to re-look at everything, go to art museums, and look at sculptures.  They become fixated on trees (people often talk about how amazing it is to look at trees after they've recovered stereopsis).

Here is a quote from a Reddit AMA from someone who recovered stereopsis via surgery.
woah.... you mean to tell me the doctor literally pulled and tugged your eye into place? damn thats nuts
whats the most beautiful thing / amazing thing you have seen now?
[–]souobixo[S] 164 points  ago
He literally did just that. It's hard to name just one thing that stood out. I would have to say trees have been the one thing that comes to mind. They have SOOOO much depth and detail. There is a national park not too far from where I live that has absolutely amazing colors in the fall. Even little things like chairs in the kitchen, or people walking around in a crowded room still make me stop and just look.
Someone that I know online named Heather explained the difference saying (paraphrased) 'Things are not the way that I thought they were.  Walls that I thought were straight, actually are not, and vice versa.  I feel like the world is more real now'.

Here is a long quote from Oliver Sacks's book The Mind's Eye, which I scraped from Michael Lievens's review of the book.  He has a great blog with a lot of good book reviews.  He's linked below.  
One has to lose the use of an eye for a substantial period to find how life is altered in its absence. Paul Romano, a sixty-eight-year-old retired pediatric ophthalmologist, recounted his own story in the Binocular Vision & Strabismus Quarterly. He had suffered a massive ocular hemorrhage, which caused him to lose nearly all sight in one eye. After a single day of monocular vision, he noted, “I see items but I often don’t recognize them: I have lost my physical localization memory.… My office is a mess.… Now that I have been reduced to a two-dimensional world I don’t know where anything is.”
The next day he wrote, “Things are not the same at all monocularly as they were binocularly.… Cutting meat on the plate—it is difficult to see fat and gristle that you want to cut away.… I just don’t recognize it as fat and gristle when it only has two dimensions.” After almost a month, though Dr. Romano was becoming less clumsy, he still had a sense of great loss:
Although driving at normal speed replaces the loss of depth perception with motion stereopsis, I have lost my spatial orientation. There is no longer the feeling I used to have of knowing exactly where I am in space and the world. North was over here before—now I don’t know where it is.… I am sure my dead reckoning is gone.
His conclusion, after thirty-five days, was that “even though I adapt better to monocularity every day, I can’t see spending the rest of my life in this way.… Binocular stereoscopic depth perception is not just a visual phenomenon. It is a way of life.… Life in a two-dimensional world is very different from that in a three-dimensional world and very inferior.” As the weeks passed, Dr. Romano became more at home in his monocular world, but it was with enormous relief that, after nine months, he finally recovered his stereo vision.

Susan herself describes the sensation of stereopsis as 'touching with the eyes'.  Objects are suddenly in your face.  Seeing is now intensely stimulating.

In her book, Susan talks about the experience, and how even though you've essentially gained another eye, it's not quite enough to say that your vision has improved by a factor of two. A person with stereopsis has vision that is much more than twice as good as a person who has stereoblindness.  It has to do with way that the two eyes are used together. This, I told Ewa, is because of evolution.  Evolution is all about optimization, and optimizing a function with what is currently available to work with. That is why the mammalian eye, even with all of its flaws, works pretty well.

If we dare anthropomorphize evolution, we might imagine evolution asking 'How can we improve situational awareness?  We've got two forward-facing eyes.  Each eye sees well.  Are there any inferences we could make by combining their input?  Would that enhance situational awareness?'

When we look at something, we direct our eyeballs, pointing at that object with our foveas.  The fovea is the dead center of our retina.  It is the area most densely packed with photoreceptors.  The area of our fields that we look at with our foveas is quite small.  If you extend your hand out in front of you looking at your thumb, the size of your thumbnail represents your foveal viewing field.  It's pretty small.  Everything else is seen with our peripheral vision.  We're not aware of how low-resolution everything else is because filling in gaps is one of the primary jobs of the brain.  When we switch our attention to something that was in our blurry periphery, we put our foveas and attention on the object, and then suddenly that object is in sharp focus.  Everything else is back in our blurry periphery and out of our attention.

But the periphery is a giant part of our visual field.  What if evolution could take advantage of the massive peripheral overlap between the two eyes to make some valuable inferences about the environment?  Well, that's precisely what it did by evolving specialized neurons to do that job (binocular depth neurons).  This is why building peripheral vision is an important part of stereopsis recovery.  It's because peripheral vision, while beneficial on its own, becomes vastly more beneficial when the giant overlap between the eyes can be combined to make inferences about the environment.

So even though the visual information coming in from our periphery is low-resolution and it's not providing a ton of information, the real benefit comes from the special sense of depth inferred by binocular depth neurons via processing both foveal and non-foveal visual input of each eye.  This, I suspect, is a big part of why a person who has stereopsis has vision much more than twice as good as a person with stereoblindness.  This is why people who have recovered stereopsis are stunned by how different and how wonderful things look.  The massive difference between the two ways of seeing is why I've put so much time and investment into fixing my vision.  That's why when Ewa innocently asked me 'Is it worth it?  Is the difference between stereopsis and stereoblindess really that big?'  I answered with conviction Yes! and Yes!

Monday, March 3, 2014

#260 session: improved accuracy and alignment

I didn't see too much subjective improvement this week, although I did have a particularly 'good eye' day on Friday.

I spent the week doing the normal thing (motion exercises), but with the dark red Alpha Omega filters.  With those filters, the accommodation out-of-sync problem is more noticeable than it is with other filters.  Doing the light tube exercises, typically I would start out with it being very difficult to squash the out-of-sync accommodation problem, but then after around 20-30 minutes, I'd have it pretty well controlled.  Then the next day when I do it, the same thing would happen, except it would take less time to have it squashed.  By Friday of last week I had it to the point where I could have it squashed by around the five minute mark.  That is to say, it's not 100% where it needs to be.  It's because of this, and the fact that the Alpha Omega filters seem to be more challenging, that I considered just staying with and running with those filters for another week.

Instead I just went to the next filters--Mu Delta (green-yellow).  Predictably it's very bright, and clear.  That was Saturday and Sunday.  I haven't noticed too much of a change in subjective experience.  What I did notice is improvement in accuracy of eye movements and eye alignment,especially when I saccade from one side of my visual field to another.  The lazy eye image is landing damn near perfectly on target.  Is this a result of improved coordination?  Or is it the fact that I'm making progress with squashing the out-of-sync accommodation problem?  I'm betting it's the latter, and that is causing improved coordination and alignment.

Perhaps I'll have some good eye days this week.  It seems that those days are actually coming with decreasing frequency, but when they do come, it's a lot of eye candy.  The visual treat is very intense, because every time I have one of those days I'm intercepting more visual information than ever before in my life.  It's something to look forward to.