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Success Stories, Traumatic Brain Injury

How Do You Thank Someone for Giving You Your Life Back?

Eric’s Return to Self Proves ‘Best Birthday Gift Ever’ for Wife Erica

“I wrote Dr. Zelinsky and asked her, ‘how do you thank someone for giving you your life back?’” says Eric Spencer, who struggled more than a year with the debilitating symptoms of a traumatic brain injury before being prescribed brain glasses by the Mind-Eye Institute, headquartered in Northbrook, Ill. “I went from disabled and unable to work or play with my kids to working full-time, being present for my family, exercising again, and even running a marathon. Mind-Eye has been truly revolutionary for me.”

The “Dr. Zelinsky” to whom Eric refers is Deborah Zelinsky OD, Institute founder and its executive research director. “Dr. Zelinsky determined my central eyesight was perfect, but my peripheral retina was not working well [as a result of the head injury]. That was why, in a busy room or at work, all the stimuli around me proved so overwhelming. I had become accustomed to seeing only what was directly in front of me. Also, I was not properly processing space and sound location. She prescribed me lenses that toned down the crispness of my central eyesight and opened up my [retinal] peripheral awareness. I became much more aware of the world around me.”

The Mind-Eye Institute has achieved worldwide recognition for the use of therapeutic eyeglasses, lenses, prisms, and filters to vary the amount, intensity and angle of light that passes through the retina. The retina is part of the central nervous system and a primary portal through which information enters the brain in the form of light-generated electrical signals.

“Disruption of sensory integration – such as what often occurs with a traumatic brain injury — affects visual processing and leads to symptoms such as those Eric was experiencing,” Dr. Zelinsky explains. “Visual processing enables us to respond appropriately to changes in our surrounding environment. By using therapeutic ‘brain’ glasses to manipulate the way light disperses across the retina, we can literally develop new informational signaling pathways in the brain. These new pathways circumvent damaged neurological ‘communication’ lines and re-establish more normal signaling patterns between the retina and deeper brain structures. That’s because the retinas are comprise brain tissue and serve as conduits between the outside environment and internal physiological systems.”

All of it made sense to Eric who has a doctorate degree in physical therapy, but his wife, Erica, initially remained somewhat skeptical.

“When Eric first told me about the Mind-Eye Institute, I was uncertain about it all,” recalls Erica. “I said getting a pair of glasses [to alleviate post-concussion symptoms] does not make sense. Your eyesight is fine; you easily see 20/20. But the more he told me about the science involved, the greater my belief – and my hope. We flew from Los Angeles to Chicago for our first appointment at Mind-Eye on August 24, 2020. I remember the exact date — it was my birthday – and all the time I am thinking what a great birthday gift if my husband can get better.”

And better, he did.

“When I initially traveled to the Mind-Eye Institute, I was in a dark place,” Eric remembers. “I was getting worse – not better – and I began wondering whether my post-concussive symptoms were becoming my new normal. But then I put on my first pair of [Mind-Eye] brain glasses, and I immediately felt something change – as if I were occupying a different space or reality. And the more I wore the glasses, the better I felt. The lenses were progressively shifting and reshaping my peripheral eyesight.”

Fifteen months later (November 2021), “I am about 90 percent back to normal,” Eric says. “My migraine headaches have subsided. My motion sensitivity and dizziness are gone. The ringing in my ears is nearly gone. I no longer suffer brain fog and have fewer difficulties focusing, concentrating, and multi-tasking. I am able to care for my patients all day, come home, and still have enough energy in the tank to enjoy being with my wife and daughters.”

Although Eric still has a few lingering symptoms, he is much closer to living the life he enjoyed prior to his concussion, incurred while competing in a weekend basketball tournament in Seattle, Washington, in 2019. “As an athlete, you learn to shake off the pain,” Eric says. “And that’s what I did – tried to power through it. I returned to work the Monday after the injury, but my symptoms were becoming progressively worse.”

So much so, Eric eventually had to take work disability. “I was 31 years old at the time, a clinical director, and number two in the company. I was caring for my patients and managing all the things a clinical director needs to do. But I found I could no longer work a full eight hours. I was becoming anxious, depressed, emotional. I tried continue working because I am the sole provider for my family but could not. I was worried. How are we going to pay our bills?”

“It was frustrating working with care providers who were addressing his symptoms but not the source of his problems,” says wife Erica. Indeed, no one seemed to be evaluating the environmental inputs from his senses and the ways in which his brain processed them.

In desperation, Eric turned to a concussion clinic in Provo, Utah – Cognitive Effects – and, during the course of treatment there, learned about the book Ghost in My Brain, authored by Clark Elliott, PhD, a DePaul University Chicago professor. In the book, Dr. Elliott credits Dr. Zelinsky and cognitive restructuring specialist Donalee Markus, PhD, of Designs for Strong Minds in Highland Park. Ill. for their efforts in helping him overcome years of struggles due to a brain injury in a car crash.

“Dr. Elliott could have been describing me,” says Eric, who read the book and then checked out the Mind-Eye web site. The patient testimonials convinced him that calling the Mind-Eye would be the right step.

“At the Mind-Eye Institute, I remember going through four or five hours of evaluation, using various visual perceptual skills and reacting to different lenses and prisms,” Eric says. “But it was the Z-Bell Test℠ that gave me the ‘aha’ moment that something truly was not right with me.”

During the Z-Bell Test℠, a patient reaches out, with eyes closed, and tries touching a ringing bell. If the patient cannot do so, a Mind-Eye optometrist places different lenses, prisms, and filters across the patient’s closed eyelids until an optimal combination allows the patient to find the bell immediately without conscious effort. Light still passes through the eyelids and activates parts of the brain not used for eyesight. With eyes closed, patients are still having to visualize surrounding space in order to locate the bell.

“I thought I never would be able to reach out and hit the bell. We worked at it for 15 minutes. Finally, Dr. Zelinsky comes up with the right combination of filters and lenses across my eyes, and suddenly I am reaching out and touching the bell right on. It was like grabbing a bullet. It gave me confidence,” Eric states.

“When my husband emerged from all his testing, I saw for the first time a glimpse of light in him. Seeing my husband returning to himself again has been the best birthday gift ever. I am forever thankful, forever grateful to Mind-Eye,” says Erica.

Eric agrees. “I am 100 percent a [Mind-Eye] advocate. As a physical therapist, I have referred multiple patients to Mind-Eye – patients with experiences very much like mine. Oftentimes, finding good providers is difficult. Mind-Eye is definitely one of those.”

Although Eric Spencer has undergone significant, positive changes, his experience is not always the norm nor is it guaranteed for every patient. Check out the Mind-Eye Institute website at for additional information.