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Success Stories, Media, Traumatic Brain Injury

[HIE Success Story] What Can Glasses Do for Brains Injured at Birth? Everything.

Mind-Eye Science Brings Woman Sensory Relief After 20 Years of Struggle Caused by Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)

What can a pair of eyeglasses do to relieve the sensory overload and depth perception impairments of a brain that has been deprived of oxygen for several minutes at birth? 

Potentially, everything, according to optometrists Carla Adams, OD and Deborah Zelinsky, OD at the Northbrook, Illinois-based Mind-Eye Institute where clinical applications of advanced optometric science are achieving what some patients and family members call “miraculous” and “transformative” results.

Read This Family's Story

Anni Welborne of Fowler, Indiana, is one of those amazed by the work of the Mind-Eye team. She is the mother of 20-year-old Stacy, who suffered hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) when her brain was deprived of oxygen during birth. 

“I am simply astounded how a pair of eyeglasses have improved Stacy’s depth perception and sensory processing,” Anni says. “This is a person whom doctors did not expect to live more than a couple days after her birth.”

“They (Mind-Eye Brainwear™) have expanded my world,” adds Stacy. “My quality of life has greatly improved.”

Now Stacy Enjoys Fireworks and Walking Through Tree Grove

As examples of this improvement, Anni relates the overwhelming fear that firework displays once caused her daughter – “Stacy would hold onto me and bury her face in my chest.” She also recalls her daughter’s former reluctance to walk among a grove of trees behind the family’s house because the filtered sunshine created dappled light patterns on the ground, and these patterns confused Stacy’s depth perception and affected her balance. 

But, after wearing the highly individualized, therapeutic Mind-Eye glasses for a period of time, Stacy recently told her mother how much she now enjoys the lights and colors of fireworks and has demonstrated her ability to walk easily and “upright” among the family’s grove of trees; the dappled light patterns no longer posing a challenge. 

“Several weeks ago (Fourth of July holiday 2023), Stacy was calmly looking out the car window at the fireworks going off. I could not believe it. She was conversing with me and, at the same time, tracking and enjoying the fireworks,” Anni says. “When we arrived home, she ran out into our tree grove just to keep watching the fireworks in the distance.”  

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“I am simply astounded... This is a person whom doctors did not expect to live more than a couple days after her birth.”

During a recent visit to the observation deck of the John Hancock Center in Chicago, Stacy was able to peer down at the city – without fear -- something she says she could not have done before wearing her Mind-Eye glasses.

Quite an achievement for someone who has struggled all her life with the neurological challenges of HIE, including cerebral palsy, epilepsy, sensory integration and visual processing disorders, balance problems, and difficulties in executive decision-making and functioning, Anni says.

But Drs. Zelinsky and Adams are not surprised.

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About Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)

“Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is an umbrella term for a brain injury that happens before, during, or shortly after birth when oxygen or blood flow to the brain is reduced or stopped,” according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

“While some children who experience HIE at birth may not have any long-term consequences, others can experience mild to severe disabilities or even death. The severity of HIE-related issues depends on many factors, including:

  • How long the brain is without oxygen or blood flow.

  • How much of the brain is affected.

  • How the individual’s brain repairs itself

“Encephalopathy, or a decrease in blood flow or oxygen to the brain, can affect many different organs, not just the brain. Individuals with HIE may have heart, lung, kidney, or liver problems.”

The two Mind-Eye optometrists explain that brain injuries, like the one Stacy sustained during birth, disrupt communication among neuron signals. Such disruption can then disturb the integration of these neurons with body sensors involving touch, sensation, pressure, and movement, as well as sight and hearing.

How Does Retinal Stimulation Work; How Does It Help?

The Mind-Eye Institute is an advanced optometric practice, internationally known for its use of therapeutic eyeglasses and other advanced optometric tools to manipulate the amount, angle, and intensity of light passing through the retina. Such manipulation can create changes in the brain function of patients struggling with the symptoms of traumatic head injury, concussion, stroke, and neurological disorders like HIE.

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Concept of Visual Processing

Visual processing involves a complex network of communication signals between the central nervous system (which includes the retina, brain, and spinal cord) and other circuitry, Dr. Zelinsky says. “The right mix of prescriptive lenses, filters and prisms modifies the dynamic relationship between the mind’s visual inputs and the body’s internal responses. The implication is that this retinal stimulation can intentionally promote customized changes in basic physical, physiological, and even psychological systems involved in motor control, posture, emotion, and decision-making abilities.”

Retinal stimulation also has proven effective in developing underused visual processing skills in children – and adults – with autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and other learning difficulties. Stacy Welborne is not autistic, but her neurological challenges put her on the autism spectrum, her mother says.

Meanwhile, Dr. Zelinsky explains that environmental signals (in the form of light) enter the retina and convert to electrical signals, which propagate through neurons and interact with key brain structures. These retinal signals affect not only the visual cortex but other, significant regions of the brain as well, linking with structures like the midbrain, thalamus, hypothalamus, and brainstem.

“Optical interventions, such as eyeglass lenses, can selectively stimulate retinal activity, thereby influencing retinal processing and brain function and re-integrating a person’s sensory inputs, especially eyes and ears,” explains Dr. Zelinsky, founder and research director of the Mind-Eye Institute and a globally recognized retinal processing expert. 

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“The right mix of prescriptive lenses, filters and prisms modifies the dynamic relationship between the mind's visual inputs and the body's internal responses.”

The Mind-Eye Institute has long been studying the retina’s role in integrating various sensory maps, including coordinating the perception of visual and auditory space to achieve proper spatial awareness. This synchronization of perceived auditory and visual space with proprioceptors – mechanosensory neurons found in muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints -- optimizes a person’s performance. 

For instance, picking up objects is an action requiring subconscious planning of the amount of energy to exert. If the eyes send signals indicating something is going to be heavy, a person readies his or her arms to lift in a manner much differently than when anticipating picking up a small cardboard box of inconsequential weight, Dr. Zelinsky says. “People who lack the necessary synchronization of neural circuits might be scared of walking on stairs or through doorways, or, in Stacy’s case, a grove of sun-dappled trees.”

Experts Agree

Other experts concur. In HIE-related research published in a June 2023 issue of Frontiers in Neuroscience, authors write that a “study of neural circuits can reveal new insights into the treatment of HIE…Application of neuromodulation strategies for HIE is important as key neural circuits spanning different brain regions are associated with functional recovery, and further advances in the treatment of HIE may be achieved through specific modulation of neural circuits.”

The Mind-Eye Institute is achieving such changes in brain function – neuromodulation – through therapeutic eyeglasses – like the ones that have brought what Anni Welborne calls “life-changing” relief to her daughter.

Stacy and Anni Epilogue

In fact, the Mind-Eye glasses have made Stacy’s astronomy hobby “even more enjoyable,” Anni says. “She can now tip her head up, look at the stars at night, and scan the sky without losing her balance.” Her improved depth perception also enables Stacy, a selected NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador, to attend planetarium shows without the sensory overload that had sometimes forced her to bury her face in her mother’s lap during the programs.

“I have never seen Stacy without challenges, but her life has definitely improved since undergoing care at Mind-Eye,” Anni adds. “Thank you, Dr. Adams. Thank you, Dr. Zelinsky.”

Although the Welborne family reports progressive symptom relief, her experience is not always the norm, nor is it guaranteed for every patient. Check out the Mind-Eye Institute at www.mindeye.com for additional information.