Monday, May 24, 2021

Another noticeable improvement

I've noticed quite a bit more improvement in the past few days.  It is definitely an incremental process.  Evolutionary.  It's a weird thought to think that stereopsis may never suddenly pop in, has it has for so many others.  It may simply be a long ramp: a steady series of moments like the one that I'm having now, where I simply notice that my vision is better than it was yesterday.

That's possible, but I don't think that's what's really going to happen.  I think I will get more and more of these moments until it gets really good, and then there will be a sudden moment where there's a shift in perception.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Been a while

 After eight years of doing this, vision is still at the top of my attention for nearly every waking hour of my life.  It's always there.  Vision is how most people navigate through life.  

It's still improving.  Realistically, it'll probably continue to improve for a number of years. 

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Getting anxious

But in a good way.

I've seen some some massive major positive changes in the past week.  

Depth is coming in.  Two-eye coordination is becoming much better.  Less and less double-vision.  

In particular, I've noticed a much more powerful sense of immersion and depth while playing Half-Life: Alyx.  I've mentioned before that depth cues seem to come more from things like virtual reality and 3d movies.  I suspect it has something to do with the fact that the stereo depth cues are artificially generated, and are thus, engineered to created an exaggerated sense of depth.  But I'm also noticing more and more depth while navigating the real world, particularly for objects that are up close.

But even now, for objects that are distant, it is now pretty easy to keep them single, or at least keep the double images on top of one another, whereas before, it was difficult to do.  There are also some 'metrics' I've used for a long time to determine how much work there is left for me to do: metrics which are to do with problem areas I have, such as double vision in certain areas of vision, particularly when looking down.  Looking down at my shoes, for instance, there's quite a lot more diplopia (distance between the double images), than there is for when, for instance, I'm looking straight ahead.  Well, going by this metric, I have seen massive improvement, which corresponds to the subjective improvement that I experience: the newly experienced quale of depth. 

It is a bit jarring to get these periodic flashes of depth, particularly from the perspective of knowing that these experiences are only going to get a lot more intense in the coming days. 

And also, I'm no longer worried about the prospect of fucking up my vision.  That was an anxiety I've had a long time ago, which is instilled by a lot of vision therapists: do not do vision therapy on your own, or you will fuck up your vision.  As far as I know, this is a real risk, although, it was a risk I was willing to take.  I was worried, in particular, about developing ARC (anomalous retinal correspondence), and the development of a faux fovea, or false fixation point on one of my retinas--or developing severe double vision as a result of a loss of suppression without yet having full control of my eyes, resulting in massive permanent migraines (although one could technically wear a patch to get around that problem).  I think I'm past that point.  The only anxiety I have now is the knowledge I have that I will soon be launched into another reality: the world of 3d.  And it will be a permanent relocation--or at least until something kills me, or if I get a twig stuck in one of my eyes. 

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Holy crap

 No, I do not yet have stereopsis.

 But damn, I had another kind of breakthrough.  It seems as though my right eye is getting a lot more powerful, and I'm getting better at controlling it in conjunction with the left eye.  

I'm just noticing that text is beginning to get bigger and more clear than it was before.  There's less and less difference between the two images.  

Being able to use both eyes... man.  What a trip.  Kind of psychedelic, walking around, still being able to see objects that are obstructed by one eye.  But hey, I've got two eyes, so I can still see the partially obstructed object with the other eye.  Pretty nifty. 

 And also... there's something I want to say, in addition to that.  It's actually pleasurable to look around.  Just getting a lot more information than I used to.  It's kind of like I can actually will my eyes to turn on (not suppress), which is a weird, psychedelic thing.  I can feel the information flow through, and it feels awesome.  I can feel the new pathways being used, and rewiring themselves.  It's fucking sweet.  Can't wait to see what happens next. 

Oh yeah, I should mention what I'm doing with vision therapy.

Nothing, essentially.  My eyes are basically doing what they need to do. I can get the double images on top of each other pretty much most of the time, which tells my brain that it no longer needs to suppress.  So I'm, in essence,  doing vision therapy all of the time now, automatically.  My vision is automatically improving itself over time.  Coasting my way to victory, as it were.  Aside from that, I try to dedicate at least 30 minutes a day playing virtual reality games, which I do believe helps by providing ultra-powerful stereo cues.  But yeah.  Damn.  Awesome.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Loving my new vision

It's nice. 

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

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

It's quite nice.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Yep... ah!

Had a great day today.  

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 26, 2020

What vision therapy has taught me (pt 2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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