Thursday, March 12, 2015

Applying mindfulness to vision therapy

It's been a while since I've done an update here.  A whole month!

It's been crazy.  In the past month I quit my old job, got a new job, and changed locations.  Through all of that I've been doing vision therapy, meditation, and making good progress.

The main reason that I haven't done updates in a while is because I can't think of anything much to say.  I am still making progress, but it's largely subjective.  I've been meditating every morning upon waking for 20 minutes.  I've still been doing tDCS with Diplopia.  I've also been mixing that with standing on my head for around five minutes before VT (not literally standing on my head, but that yoga pose.

The mindfulness practice that I've been doing has helped me make insights about what I'm supposed to be doing while doing vision therapy.  The way that I see it is that the largest problem about curing strabismus as an adult has to do with chunking and decreased brain plasticity in adults.

The reason humans are capable of doing so many things is because of our ability to chunk.  When you see a musician doing an incredible solo you might think to yourself 'That's so complex, I could never do that in my life.  How is it possible that someone can do something so amazing?'  Well, the answer is chunking.

We learn small foundational things, like how to write letters, one line, one curve at a time as children.  After that, we build on those lines, curves, and letters, and then create words.  Then we create sentences, paragraphs, complex ideas, and books with those little lines and curves.  Each additional thing we add to the tower only involves a marginal amount of learning, but over time, as you chunk over and over again, you can do some things which are apparently incredible.

And hence, there might be an adaptive value to the loss of brain plasticity in humans.  By losing our ability to learn, we also lose our ability to forget some of the lower level things that we've chunked on top of.  This allows older people to focus on the larger things in life, and the things which really matter, without ever forgetting how to write an uppercase cursive 'G'.

Of course, the downside is that it's harder for older people to program microwave oven clocks, and Blue-ray players.  And it's also harder to change the way you use your goddamned eyes if you happened to be so inclined.  Everything builds on top of our vision, right?

And this is where the mindfulness has been helping.  Now I'm much more mindful when I'm doing exercises.  I've been finding that my habits are so ingrained that I find ways to adapt to the game that I'm playing without actually doing what the game wants me to do.

But this mindfulness has made me realize that I'm surreptitiously trying to trick the game, while maintaining my old way of seeing.  And this has allowed me to say 'aha!  I see what you did, you bastard!'--to myself of course.  I can then correct myself.  One thing that I'm now doing is, when playing the space game is that I treat the game more like vision therapy than I do as a game.  I make smaller movements with the spacecraft and try to tie that with the movements of my eye which is watching the spacecraft (only one eye can see it).  Of course, my eye is suppressing the spacecraft quite a bit, and I can tell when my fovea is on it because it comes in very clearly.  Before, I really wasn't paying that much attention to tying my perception and movement of my eye muscles together as I was playing the game.  But by being aware of what I'm doing, I'm able to play the game more effectively, and track the spacecraft more with the lazy eye.  It requires a lot of attention.  But I think it's helping me a lot.  The mindfulness has helped me see the habits that I've had which have become so incredibly ingrained.

Anyway, this ended up being longer than I thought.  I am more confident than ever that I will recover stereopsis at some point.  Hopefully this year.  VR is going to be absolutely nuts.