Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Just a little

I saw a little depth at my last vision therapy appointment. For the first time! Just a little! But still... it happened! Here's the story...

In Effective Strabismus Therapy, Dr. Israel Greenwald talks a lot about working with strabismus patients to achieve red/green luster while looking at a white wall. The patient wears red/green glasses, stands up close and stares at a big empty while wall, and tries to make the colors intermix and become inseparable. To help achieve this, he recommends that the patient wear high plus lenses (+15 to +20). These high plus lenses are basically superpowered magnifying glasses that make everything blurry. This removes all figure/ground distinctions and allows for easier fusion.

I asked my vision therapist if we could get some high plus lenses and she said 'Sure!' She called in an order to the lab, and I thought everything would be fine. It turns out, though, that it's very hard to find a place that even makes plus lenses that strong. The strongest that I have seen available for order on the internet are +12. (+12 is actually very strong though and would probably work, but that's not part of the story.)

So last Friday, I brought up the topic of plus lenses again and my vision therapist had an idea. There were lots of contacts in the office, so why not try high plus contacts? That way, there wouldn't even be a chance to "peek around" the glasses and ruin the blurring between figure and ground. They weren't any +20, but there were some +6 available. (or maybe they were +4, I can't remember).

So I said yes, even though I was kind of terrified. (You remember what happened last time someone got all up in my eyes.) And it turns out, contacts are really hard to get in! I did the usual - hold your eyelids down like they are trying to escape - type of thing, but then I would involuntarily try to shut my eye so hard that my eyelids would turn inside out and block the contact anyway. It was both funny and gross.

20 minutes later, when they were finally in, I got to experience the world as myope (near sighted person). I actually found it quite nice. My eyes couldn't focus on anything and thus didn't try - it felt rather relaxing. It also blurred out everything past my nose, leaving me encapsulated in a blurry womb. I've always been an anxious and shy person, wondering what people are thinking about me (are they looking at my crooked eye??), and for once, I couldn't see anybody's faces. I just had to assume that everyone was smiling at me. I wouldn't want to live with uncorrected blurry vision, of course, but it was nice to take a vacation in blurry land for a while.

So we tried some red/green luster with the white wall, and the extra plus seemed to help (more plus would have been better, though). While, the contacts were in, we also tried some other things. I had some vague memories of reading that dim light can help fusion and help break suppression, and something about contrast levels.... and something about ARC and peripheral fusion... and something about something else... So we decided to try out some polarized vectograms while I was wearing the plus contacts, just for fun, and.... something happened!

First, I was looking at this "figure 8" vectogram:

I was looking at this one the previous week, and while rocking side to side, I noticed that one of the little triangles was moving with me. It only did it for a second, and I couldn't really get it to happen again, but I knew that this vectogram was doing something funny to my brain. So, while wearing the blurry contacts, I decided to start with this one.

I put the polarized glasses on and started to rock side to side like last time. And suddenly little triangles started popping off the screen! They didn't stay popped out for very long, but it happened more than a few times, especially (for some reason) on the triangles on the left hand side of the picture.

It reminded me of those pop-up story books - the kind where you pull a tab and little paper figures extend off the page. It was as if someone was pulling a tab behind the vectogram and making the triangles pop out. At one point, I even saw a wave of depth undulate across the vectogram and then disappear. It was pretty neat.

Excited, I tried another vectogram - the one my vision therapist calls "creepy clown."

Again, something happened! Nothing really popped off of the screen, like those little triangles did in the figure 8 vectogram.. It was more like... the screen fell away and I was looking through a portal into another dimension... A dimension of scary living devil clowns!

The area with the most depth was that area between creepy clown's legs, where you can see his two legs, his hand, and the stool. It's was very depthy in there. And yes, I do appreciate how creepy it is to have one of my first experiences with depth involve looking between a clown's legs. Some optometrist out there sure has a sick sense of humor.

Also, every time the screen fell away and got depthy, I got the strange sensation that someone was punching me in the stomach. That was pretty neat, too.

So that's the story. It wasn't in "real life", and it was blurry and unstable. But it HAPPENED. Up until this point, I have been secretly fearing that maybe I was born without those special binocular neurons. Maybe I became strabismic because my brain was missing some pieces... Now I know that's not the case. I just need to keep practicing.


  1. Wow!! That is BEYOND exciting--and proof that full-time 3D will eventually be yours.

    The creepy clown is a riot--between that and the stereofly, I just have to laugh. 

    And are you just dying to see some more 3D again!?!

  2. Hi Josh, I've just joined the followers of your blog. I found it when I googled "anomalous retinal correspondence", which I have just been informed I have. I've been in vision therapy for two months, and the going has been slow. This is partly because my VT doctor is very cautious about not inadvertently causing me permanent double vision. I certainly don't want that to happen, but I'm also impatient to see some change. :) Like you, I wonder if it's even possible. The VT doctor says that the ARC makes treatment a lot more difficult, and she can't promise there will be any change. That's a little disheartening, but I'm not ready to throw in the towel just yet.

    Something I would like to ask is, do you know of any online forums where people like us (not just with ARC, but stereoblind people in general) can chat about our condition, anything we might be doing to improve our vision, and general conversation about life in "flatland". If you can recommend any good forums, please do!

    By the way, I got that clown picture in my VT also. I didn't notice depth between the clown's legs (LOL - that was funny), but those blocks on the floor really popped out. I saw the 3D effect immediately, the minute the picture came on the screen. As you mentioned, this implies that I have functioning binocular-vision cells in my brain, ready to receive the right input. That's astonishing. Those cells have been sitting on their little cell butts, doing nothing for decades, and the minute they were called to action, they were in business! How cool is that??

    One thing I've noticed. Out in the world, I look at 3D images all day, and I see them in 2D. My only experience with 3D vision has been in the VT office, looking at a two-dimensional image on a screen. Doesn't that strike you as a bit ironic? :)

    Thanks for your cool blog.


  3. Hi Joyce,
    Thanks for your interesting comment! ARC really fascinates me. Since that ARC post, my optometrist did some more tests on me, hoping to show me that I don't have ARC. But then I got a positive response on some of the tests, and then I think we both left that appointment a little confused. Now we're sort of operating on the assumption that I do bizarre things with my brain and eyes, which may include ARC, and that it's a mystery for now, but we'll continue VT anyway. And on my own, I try to formulate ways to make sure my two foveas are pointing at the same thing.

    And yes, there most certainly is an online forum for strabismus patients undergoing vision therapy! It just recently started in the past few months. The website is called Sovoto ( Sign up and join the "Adult Strabismic Patients' Forum" (

    Good luck!


  4. Hi Joyce--I'm glad you found Josh & his excellent blog. I, too, have strabismus (& a blog) and am delighted to tell you that yes there IS an online forum, called, and a question about intractable double vision was recently answered/discussed:

    I thank Lynda--another strabby-- who blogs at for inviting me to I hope this info is useful for you. 

  5. Actually, I don't have strabismus - not now, anyway. I did have it as a baby, but I had surgery when I was 2 or 3, which corrected it - cosmetically, at least. However, my eyes never learned to work together, so I have poor depth perception.

    I'm pretty surprised to hear that strabismus can be corrected through VT alone. I thought surgery was required. Well, a lot has changed since I was 3 years old. :)

    Thanks for the referral. I hope that is open to people like me, even though I don't have any visible turn in my eyes anymore. I'm still dealing with the aftermath.


  6. Hi Sally,

    I've read some of your blog as well, but didn't comment because I didn't have time. It was fun to read the discussions in the comment section as well as your posts.

    And I like the name of Lynda's blog - I'll check that one out, too. See my response to Josh for comments about


  7. YEAH!!! I am so happy that you are seeing something cool with the clown. I feel like I've been on a LONG date w/the clown and am very slowly discovering him incrementally. I don't see any depth but I do see the blocks better now.

    I'm also showing contradictory results now. It's not pleasant to be a mystery. I know this all too well.

    I am so glad to have your blog to read because this therapy is a lonely ordeal and I've been at it for 15 months.

    As for the other person who was looking for a forum, I also write a blog on my VT:

  8. Hi Josh,
    This was a fascinating story. It makes sense that blurring everything allowed for better fusion and a 3D view. The images from your two foveas conflicted less allowing your brain to interpret things in a new way.

    I think almost all people with strabismus have binocular cells. The data indicating that they don't is actually incomplete. Most of the experiments indicating a lack of binocular cells were done on animals made artificially strabismic. In all of these experiments, the scientists never recorded from cells that responded to the visual field that extended more than five or eight degrees from the fovea. These are the cells that respond to the smallest region of the visual field and are therefore the cells whose binocularity would be most affected by misaligned eyes. When these cells appeared to lose their binocularity in experimental animals, the scientists concluded that this was ture for all visual cells.

    When you saw in 3D, in contrast, you probably recruited neurons that responded to larger and more peripheral areas of your visual field. This is no evidence that these cells lose their binocularity in animals or people with strabismus. And there have hardly been any experiments trying to restore binocularity in animals. It wouldn't be easy to teach them vision therapy procedures!

    So, you've just shown beautifully that you have a latent capacity to see in 3D. I think it's true for most strabismics. You're one step ahead of the scientists!

  9. LOL! I just found your blog and as a fairly young vision therapist I still can't understand the reason behind all the clown images we use in therapy-- What is the deal with that?!? You made me laugh, but it is VERY neat to read about your experience and understand it from "the other side of the table."