Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Session 56: Bankrupt?

My fine ocular motor skills keep improving making head on anti-suppression exercise the main focus now. No 'luster' yet, but I am not disheartened. It is really unbelievable that after 2,5 years of dedication to my vision read brain, my motor control still keeps getting more refined. It's hard to believe how badly I was doing back then, isn't it? I can't blame people for not understanding me because I almost take every improvement for granted instantly... I would compare it to having accumulated this this huge amount of debt (health wise) starting at the age of three which had seemed impossible to pay back at the age of twenty making every small reimbursement (VT effort) seem insignificant. However, that's just a one sided metaphor falling short of describing this life crushing stuff... So yesterday I said jokingly 'It's starting to look like I'm going to be able make up for 20 years of medical negligence and abuse in more or less three years, so I can't complain.' Eat that VT skeptics. The best is yet to come.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Session 55: A courting exercise

Lately motor fusion is becoming more of a given rather than a struggle. Because of the last two surgeries, almost five years ago, both converging as well as diverging my eyes had become a problem. This made for zero comfort zone. Now after more than two years of conscious effort, with some bumbs along the road, I have recovered some control. Vision therapy, a stoic attitude towards other peoples incomprehension and most recently Syntonics have gotten me this far already.

Even though my involuntary double vision because of lack of ocular control before, I am still to some extent suppressing crucial information needed for solid stereo vision. I certainly do receive information from both eyes but poor visual processing is still very much an issue. Aside from maintaining my level of motor fusion, I am focusing on sensory fusion. Increasing anti-suppression and proper visual processing is the last step towards my goal of fully integrated and efficient stereo vision enabling one to live a better life.

What does that mean in practical terms? Anyone knowing anything about vision therapy is very familiar with the red green anaglyph glasses used for anti suppressant therapy. There are endless ways of using them, even games. They are a simple and low tech tool to stimulate your brain towards better binocular integration.

You can also use them on a computer screen for example

Seen through the red eye filter

Seen through the green eye filter

Bar reader

I used them before in therapy but they were rather frustrating because I could not even point my eyes sufficiently. So back then, even though I could do an extra anti-suppressant effort, this just resulted in a more confusing form of double vision. Now things are different. I can make sure my eyes are both pointing at the point intended and put more emphasis on retrieving the input of both to see a coherent whole.

Regardless of the great strides forward taken on the motor fusion front, I'm still taking baby steps as far as sensory fusion is concerned. If you are doing it right you should, instead of some green and red spaces, even see a mix of both colours named 'luster'. It's supposed to be something like orange or gold. So in short, the next step in the process is my brain manufacturing a 'whole new colour' by correctly blending the inputs from both eyes. That's a pretty mind blowing idea... Then again, one should consider that everything we perceive is just virtual reality manufactured by your brain.

As I'm not one to take half measures anymore I gathered as much advise and information as possible on the subject. Such as there are "It's not necessarily logical, you have to allow yourself to see it" and "At this point you just have to keep stimulating your vision and it will come to you." As vague as that may sound, it makes sense to me from a neuroplastic point of view. It's more a courting exercise than a clear cut race towards an obvious finish line. And if pursuing stereo vision really was a courting exercise, she is definitely the mistress of 'hard to get'. I'll have to keep making sure the circumstances are right and trick my brain into making the right connections, as it was tricked into learning plenty of things. However frustrating obtaining basic abilities at a later age may be, unexpected things have happened before so I will make sure they keep happening.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Syntonics report

By the end of last year I had learned about this supplementary light therapy called syntonics that can be used along with VT to enhance results. The paper was very convincing so I wanted to try it. As it turned out that is easier said than done... My own optometrist was of the opinion that it was only to be used for anti-suppressant purposes and given my double vision that was not what I needed. 'It will only worsen the double vision.' This statement is wrong on a number of levels.
- I did have double vision and hence have broken through my suppression to some extent already. But now that I had gained sufficient control over my eye movements as to align them most of the time, visual processing is the next step in sealing the deal. Granted, I do have conscious input for my inferior eye indicating a lack of complete suppression. On the other hand, this input is not of premium quality and isn't properly contributing to a single unified stereo percept of the world so I sure can use some anti-suppressant to make that traditionally amblyopic eye truly part of the team.
- True, syntonic therapy does work stimulating and anti-suppressant but nothing is as simple as that when it comes to the brain... It will enhance a number of abilities, one of which is less suppression, in order to advance towards the goal of better binocular vision. Even better, some optometrists say syntonics is at the heart of their treatment of patients with double vision!

Even when the paper in question was presented to him he did not change his opinion. As often times has been the case on this long and winding VT road, I had to rely on my gut feeling and reasonable judgement once more. I have to admit I was pretty upset because of being 'sabotaged' again after being fooled by ophthalmologists for twenty years... Being pragmatic, I decided to leave it at that and find another way. Most manufacturers of these appliances ask for a professionals consent when purchasing and I wanted some more information on how to use it myself. Heather, having had a really positive experience with syntonics, suggested I'd contact her own optometrist Brad Habermehl. So I did... We e-mailed, we Skyped and we moved towards a practical solution.

Initially I had wanted to buy the Syntonizer by Bernell but apparently it was out of order so Dr Habermehl decided to make some calls in order to find another solution. Worryingly, he wasn't able to find a syntonics device even though he applied himself to the task for some weeks. Speaking of an unsaturated market! Meanwhile on my end I had found a Belgian company named Optomatters which sells similar units called Color Boy. Surprisingly that extraordinarily nice optometrist still hadn't grown tired of me and took it upon himself to take a look at the website and reassuringly advised me on what kind of colour filters to buy with it. "I am as excited about this purchase as you are."-, he concluded. What an awesome guy!

 This whole process must have taken us a month or three... Although once ordered it arrived real quick at my doorstep. I was as excited as a kid on Christmas day about my ugly and surprisingly heavy lamp. It's insane if you think about it... We weren't able to find a syntonics device in the US which sounds very unlikely given its leadership in the field of visual rehabilitation. So of all countries in the world, I found a supplier in my own little weird country. Dr Habermehl still wasn't referring my e-mails to spam and advised me on how to use it.

OK, here we go! 
It would be great to do 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening consecutively for the next 30 days. Consecutively is the key! Do not miss more than 2 days in a row or we will need to start over. If the 20 minutes twice a day does not work then you can do 40 minutes straight. Start with: 
Alpha Omega for the first week consecutively (Dark red colour filter)
Mu Delta for the second week consecutively (Light green)
Alpha Delta for the third week consecutively (Light red or orange)
Mu Upsilon for the fourth week consecutively (Dark green)
Be ready to experience some mood changes: anger, hyper, anxious, tired just to name a few. Continue doing vision therapy while you are doing your syntonics plan. Stay motivated and keep me informed! Dr. Brad. 

I had my gear and my instructions so I started cracking. During the first week I was exceptionally tired, but to me it was a sign something was changing. I had to sleep even more and had some trouble dealing. From the second week on, things were getting somewhat better and somehow I felt like my ocular reflexes are swifter. Overall I my tracking, saccades and accommodation have gotten better during and after syntonics. I had the feeling it was a disproportionate improvement, by which I mean more than just the continuation of VT. This isn't a controlled study but I am convinced it has been very useful. It isn't a miracle treatment, at least not for me or at least not yet, but I'm glad I managed to do it after all. After those initial four weeks, I continue using it according to a different regimen. I  use each of the four filters for three minutes daily amounting to 12 minutes which are added to my VT routine.

I realize, after all the trouble I had to go through to even try syntonics, I haven't done the best job of keeping a day to day journal with more detailed impressions. Fortunately, a strabismic friend of mine named Andrew bought exactly the same unit and is following the same instructions. He is reporting on his personal experience with syntonics in more detail on I hope both of our efforts will help you understand and learn more about Syntonics as an addition to Vision Therapy.