Mind•Eye Media:

Cellphone Use Leads to Thinking: Eye Testing is Outdated  


I flew to Boston, caught a bus to New Hampshire, then shared a car ride to my destination, all the while noticing how the fellow passengers kept their eyes – and conscious attention — pretty much focused on their phones. Certainly, not an uncommon sight, but one that made me again think about how standard eye testing is becoming out of step with modern society.

Eye evaluations continue to be based on a 150-year-old system that evaluates central eyesight by having a patient fix conscious attention on a non-moving target like an eye chart – or a phone. The system worked when much of the nation remained unsettled, overland travel was by horseback or horse-drawn wagons, and prairies and mountains dominated individuals’ peripheral sight.

But, general awareness of today’s fast-paced environment is highly dependent on peripheral eyesight. Modern society is awash in moving targets – from signs, lights and other vehicles whizzing past us in traffic to ever-changing GPS navigation screens and words rolling in and out of sight on scrolling web pages. We use peripheral and central eyesight in tandem to scan and shift our gaze from place to place, whether it be from a car dashboard to the road, from notes to a teacher or from a tennis ball to an opposing player. We typically use peripheral processing to guide where our attention is placed.

Only about six percent of surrounding awareness comes from conscious attention on specific objects. Most environmental signals passing through our retinas emanate from peripheral space – the space all around us. So, had I moved my head – or hand — close to one of my fellow riders engrossed in a phone, the action would have likely been caught by the corner of the rider’s eye, either startling the person or, at the very least, causing him or her to look up suddenly.

The brain usually turns on or tunes out peripheral/background auditory and visual signals and engages or disengages eye-aiming at targets depending on a person’s surrounding space and state of mind. When intact, such brain processing enables people to have some internal systems (such as balance and posture) running automatically. This “cruise control” allows a person to respond appropriately to the external world around them.

However, if brain circuitry is out of sync because it has been disrupted – or, in the case, of younger children, perhaps under-developed — people can become confused about their surrounding environment and exhibit inappropriate reactions and responses, Our filtering capability is hindered when body systems are impacted by extreme stress, injury or abnormal neurologic or metabolic conditions.

Patients with anxiety disorder, for example, are hypersensitive; their peripheral field is always “on” – both consciously and subconsciously. Children with attention deficit disorder are unable to tune out their background environment; everything that happens around them keeps shifting their attention. On the other hand, a person suffering from depression often has his or her peripheral processing primarily in the “off” position, shutting out the surrounding world.

Unfortunately, despite its critical role in our ability to perceive and function comfortably, peripheral eyesight – and its impact on brain function – remains largely untested. When it is tested, the patient has warning to “pay attention to the periphery.” Peripheral testing needs to be assessed at a subconscious level, including how it links with the 20/20 measurements of central eyesight. Thorough assessments should also include reaction times and accuracy of shifting gaze from place to place. With technology a constant part of people’s lives, we no longer stay put on stationary targets as much as we did 50 years ago.

We are almost 20 years into the 21st century. Time to leave 20/20 in the 20th century!

Deborah Zelinsky, O.D.
Executive Research Director
Mind-Eye Institute

Take The 60 Second MindEye Brain Quiz

Mind-Eye Featured in the News Media

Newspapers and television stations throughout the country have been reporting on the work of the Mind-Eye Institute. Read the articles below to learn more about what the Mind-Eye Institute is doing to pioneer change in how optometric evaluations are performed in the 21st Century.

Mind-Eye Response to Article in The Atlantic

Mind•Eye Media: Mind-Eye Response to Article in The Atlantic Dear Editor: The November 27, 2019 article headlined, The Great American Eye-Exam Scam, actually perpetuates an outdated concept – that eyeglasses are merely appliances to enhance eyesight clarity. Nothing,...

Nothing ‘Puzzling’ About the Role of ‘Vision’ in Visionary

Mind•Eye Media: Nothing ‘Puzzling’ About the Role of ‘Vision’ in Visionary Do our newsletter readers recall the 1,000-piece Netherlands jigsaw puzzle I was putting together last month and that prompted me to consider all the visual skills needed to accomplish the...

Pastor’s Vertigo Gives Hope to Police Officer with PTSD

Mind•Eye Success Story: Pastor’s Vertigo Gives Hope to Police Officer with PTSD   Kyle Hein, Who Also Suffered Brain Injury, Finds Relief at Mind-EyeThe local church can be a source of hope. So, it was for Kyle Hein of Michigan, a former police officer who was first...

‘Hope for HIE’ Not Just the Name of a Facebook Group

Mind•Eye Media: ‘Hope for HIE’ Not Just the Name of a Facebook Group Mind-Eye’s Approaches Give Hope to Parents of Babies with Injured Brains “Hope for HIE.” It’s more than simply the name of a Facebook group for parents of infants with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy...

Mind-Eye Response to Article in Indianapolis Star

Mind•Eye Media: Mind-Eye Response to Article in Indianapolis Star Dear Editor: The December 2 article by Shari Rudavsky concerning nearsightedness in children misses two critical points. First, eyeglasses are not primarily appliances for achieving 20/20 clarity, even...

Dr. Zelinsky Radio Interview on “Live with Rudi Bakhtiar”

Mind•Eye Media: Dr Zelinsky Radio Interview on “Live with Rudi Bakhtiar” Dr. Zelinsky was recently a guest on the live radio show “Live with Rudi Bakhtiar” on Los Angeles' KIRN 670 AM to discuss the advanced methods for assessing brain function with Neuro-Optometric...

Response to the Hallmark Channel Movie

Mind•Eye Media: Response to the Hallmark Channel Movie As a loyal Hallmark Christmas movie viewer for the past 10 years and a practicing optometrist for more than 30 years, I was truly disappointed with the inappropriate and false nuances and references to...

2019 Holiday Message From Mind-Eye President, Zemen Abebe

Mind•Eye Media: 2019 Holiday Message From Mind-Eye President:Zemen Abebe I would like to extend a heartfelt “THANK YOU” to all of you, our MEI team, for your hard work, dedication and support. As a mission-driven Institute with ​a campaign to provide advanced 21s​ t​...

Internet Signal on Beach Puts Him on Road to Recovery

Success Stories: Internet Signal on Beach Puts Him on Road to Recovery  Mind-Eye Institute Helps Return Brain-Injured Patient to Person He was “She is still in business,” Michael Warnecke’s wife, Alycia, yelled excitedly from the only point on the beach at Priest...

Nothing ‘Puzzling’ About It; ‘Vision’ More Than Just Eyesight

Mind•Eye Media: Nothing ‘Puzzling’ About It; ‘Vision’ More Than Just Eyesight   Jigsaw Pieces Prompt Reflection on Critical Role of Retinal Processing  What makes my new jigsaw puzzle from the Netherlands especially challenging is that the picture on the box cover...