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First Optometrist Elected President of Brain Mapping Society

Mind-Eye Institute Founder Inducted During International World Congress

Deborah Zelinsky OD, of Northbrook, Illinois, has been inducted as the 21st president of the prestigious Society for Brain Mapping & Therapeutics (SBMT) – the first optometrist ever to be named to that position in the international organization. Dr. Zelinsky’s induction took place at the Society’s annual World Congress, February 16-19, in Los Angeles.

The SBMT is composed of recognized scientists, physicians, engineers, and mental health specialists from throughout the globe. Since its founding, the SBMT has fostered “dramatic advances in brain measurement and therapy by bringing about a pioneering transformation of the way in which leaders and innovators interact in advancing the science and technology of brain science.”

Election as SBMT president represents another in a series of “firsts” for the world-renowned Dr. Zelinsky, who is founder and executive director of research of the Mind-Eye Institute in Northbrook. She is also the first scientist to analyze how synchronization of the senses affects a person’s ability to process the environment, understanding the role that highly individualized therapeutic eyeglasses can play in brain neuroplasticity and restoration of auditory space.

Additionally, Dr. Zelinsky is the first optometrist ever invited as a keynote speaker to the international Neuroscience20 (N20) Summit. The purpose of the N20 summit is to discuss health care policies as they relate to the health of the central nervous system – the brain, spine, and mental health — and to present recommendations to political leaders attending the G20 Summit in Europe. The N20 consortium draws researchers, physicians, technology specialists, and engineers from throughout the world.

Noted globally for her clinical work and studies in retinal processing, Dr. Zelinsky has spent most of her 35-plus-year career in developing – and applying — advanced optometric methods for assessing brain function, with emphasis on the often-untested linkage between eyes and ears. Her patented research in novel approaches to retinal stimulation, using variations in the amount, intensity, and angle of light that passes through the retina, has been described in publications and courses worldwide. Indeed, she has become globally known and recognized for her understanding of how changes in light on the retina can affect brain function.

She developed the now internationally recognized Z-Bell Test℠, a simple, but revolutionary, method of evaluating a patient’s overall integration of retinal processing with awareness of auditory space – basically, the stability of the eye-ear connection.

When intact, visual processing enables people to understand and interact appropriately with the world around them. If brain circuitry is out of sync because it has been disrupted by trauma or disease or is underdeveloped, people can become confused about their surrounding environment and exhibit inappropriate reactions and responses. If eyes and ears are not integrated, people have to continuously shift attention, and that effort becomes exhausting, Dr. Zelinsky explains.

“Eye-ear integration is the concept underlying our clinical work and experience at the Mind-Eye Institute. Our team uses therapeutic lenses, filters, and other optometric interventions to change the way light passes through the retina (which is made of brain tissue and part of the central nervous system). These interventions affect how the brain reacts to information about the environment. Our sensory systems are like musicians in an orchestra. Each musician may be highly skilled in a specific instrument, but without a conductor synchronizing what they are playing, the result is simply noise – not music,” she says.

The Mind-Eye Institute attracts patients from almost every continent of the globe. Both Dr. Zelinsky’s research and her clinical emphasis involve the diagnosis and neuro-optometric rehabilitation of patients with visual processing disorders due to traumatic brain injury, stroke, neurological disease, and autism or with underdeveloped visual processing skills that result in learning, attention, and comprehension difficulties.

Dr. Zelinsky’s election as SBMT president is not surprising. Leaders of the organization call her work for the Society “impressive.” She has brought to the organization a greater understanding of, and appreciation for, the power of retinal processing and has established a separate, visual processing subgroup within the SBMT. She also was among those SBMT members who traveled to Washington, DC, first to lobby Congressional leaders on the importance of testing school-age children for eye-ear integration and secondly, to develop Congressional awareness of the importance of retinal processing in brain mapping.

In fact, appreciation of Dr. Zelinsky’s advanced scientific knowledge and achievements prompted the SBMT to name her the 2022 winner of the Golden Axon Award. The award recognizes scientists, academicians, community leaders, members of the media, and others in the public sector who have “inspired an enthusiastic interest in science, technology, and medicine.”

In accepting her new role as SBMT president, Dr. Zelinsky says she is both “honored and humbled.”

“Early in my career, optometry was teaching about eye movement and 20/20 eyesight. School instruction focused on fitting patients with the appropriate set of eyeglass lenses to sharpen central eyesight. Working in Miami in the 1980s with pioneering optometrist Dr. Albert Sutton, who understood how optometrists might modify brain function through therapeutic lenses, taught me that optometry could one day be in the vanguard of change in the care of patients with brain injuries and other neurological disorders. That experience put me on an investigatory path to learn more about the role of the retina as a critical component of the central nervous system and the impact of retinal processing on brain function and physiological and mental processes,” she states.

After Dr. Zelinsky earned her OD degree, the optometry curriculum shifted to more about dilating eyes and disease treatment. “Time is now for optometric curricula to shift yet again to include the non-image forming retinal pathways (such as sleep and jet lag) that influence internal processes.

Dr. Zelinsky’s pioneering work on the retina has been laying the groundwork for a future where eye care practitioners potentially become the professionals of choice when patients first seek regulation of internal biochemistry. “As scientific research continues to discover more non- image-forming eyesight connections from the retina into other parts of the brain, this future becomes more plausible,” she says. Meanwhile, Dr. Zelinsky is continuing her campaign to “Leave 20/20 in the 20th Century.”

About the Mind-Eye Institute

The Mind-Eye Institute, an internationally known optometric practice with an emphasis on using the eye as a gateway to brain function, is revolutionizing scientific understanding of how the retina serves as a two-way portal into the mind and body. The manner in which light disperses on the retina influences brain function, thereby affecting a person’s awareness, movement, and attention. Using optometric interventions to selectively stimulate light, the Mind-Eye Institute is helping patients redevelop visual skills during recovery from debilitating, life-altering symptoms of brain injuries and neurological disorders, such as concussions and stroke. The Institute also helps develop visual processing skills in autistic patients as well as people with learning problems, including ADHD.

For more information, contact public relations officer Mike Maggio at 312-968-9199 or visit

About the SBMT

The Society for Brain Mapping and Therapeutics is a non-profit society organized to encourage basic and clinical scientists interested in brain mapping, engineering, stem cells, nanotechnology, imaging, and medical devices, with the goal of improving the diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of patients with neurological disorders. The organization promotes public welfare and improves patient care by translating new technologies and therapies into lifesaving diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. SBMT is committed to excellence in education and scientific discovery. It achieves its mission through multidisciplinary collaborations with government agencies, patient advocacy groups, educational institutes, and industry, as well as through service as a philanthropic organization.

For more information, visit