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Mind-Eye Helping Navy Veteran Regain ‘Sense of Self’

Amanda Stepping Back into Her ‘Groove,’ Thanks to Brain Glasses

United States Navy Veteran Amanda Burrill traveled the world, studied wine in France, became one of the first females in the New York Post’s sports section, competed in triathlons, climbed mountains, and yet was missing one key component in her life – “my sense of self,” thanks to a “long series of head injuries.”  It was her efforts to “regain who I am” that eventually led Amanda to the Mind-Eye Institute.

Thanks to the Mind-Eye team, “I feel like I am stepping back into my groove,” laughs Amanda, who has been wearing a pair of Mind-Eye “brain” glasses for only about four months but says she already notices improvements in her post-concussive symptoms. “I now am actually aware of the lyrics in songs that are playing.  I am feeling less overwhelmed, especially when there is a lot of busyness and movement around me.  I am better able to interact with others. That’s because my ability to listen to conversation and understand what is being said is helping me become more socially engaged.”

While skiing in Idaho shortly after donning her prescription “brain” glasses, Amanda says she even began “feeling like an athlete again.”  

“I was able to traverse tougher ski trails and could better time my turns down the slopes” – accomplishments for which she credits her improved visual processing.  “Skiing has everything to do with eyesight and processing.  What I was able to achieve while skiing was significant.  It was like welcoming myself back home.”

The Mind-Eye glasses also seem to have reduced her light sensitivity.  “I used to wear sunglasses all the time, but I needed them less – even with the [bright] snow all around me – when I was skiing this last time around,” she says.

Amanda emphasizes that she talks frequently to other Veterans about her experiences at Mind-Eye. “Over the course of 18 years, I was told to take a lot of medications – dozens of them – to calm my [post-concussive] symptoms,” she relates. “But, in the end, I did not need any of that.  Veterans with head injuries are often diagnosed with ADD (attention deficit disorder) or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), but the root cause of their head injuries comes back to a problem of how sensory signals are processed in the brain. I want Veterans to know that answers to their struggles are out there.”

“Amanda came to us with a long list of symptoms typical of concussion,” explains Mind-Eye optometrist Carla Adams, OD, in an interview following Amanda’s second clinic visit. “Thinking was exhausting for her.  She was experiencing double vision.  She could not read with comprehension.  She had undergone other therapies in the past, but just was not functional.  Amanda wanted to get her life back.”

Today, Amanda is not quite where she wants to be, “yet, she is optimistic she can get there,” Dr. Adams adds.  “Since receiving her ‘brain’ glasses, her symptoms have generally improved. She is thinking more clearly and is more aware of her surrounding environment.  She can tolerate being around people more and no longer has double vision. Previously, she had to tune everything out and really focus in order to carry on a conversation.  She does not have to make that kind of effort anymore.”

“BrainwearTM glasses are not eyeglasses for sharpening eyesight to 20/20 but for changing retinal processing,” says Deborah Zelinsky, OD, founder and executive director of research for the Mind-Eye Institute.  “They work by bending light in different ways across the retina. The light triggers electrical signals that propagate through nerves.  In fact, the retina helps route information through multiple brain pathways.  Variance in light signals can create new brain signaling pathways that are uncorrupted by injury or disease or rebuild (or more often, circumvent) damaged ones, thereby enhancing a patient’s visual processing skills of spatial awareness and perception.” 

Scientists have long known the retina is composed of brain tissue and is part of the central nervous system, says Dr. Adams.  “At the Mind-Eye Institute, we recognize the critical role that the retina plays in brain activity and the importance of expanding traditional eye tests for people with compromised brain function in order to evaluate their visual processing.” 

Amanda, now age 41, recalls experiencing her first significant head injury in her early 20s while in the Navy.  Other concussions followed – “primarily because of my lifestyle. I am active — an athlete – experiencing some hard skydiving openings and a bike crash or two, but I also fainted into a few of these concussions.”  She even recently broke a leg while skiing – but, fortunately, she says, “not my head. Take anything but my precious head!”

Through the years, the resulting symptoms of her head injuries, including lack of reading comprehension, have forced Amanda to find workarounds for her chosen career as a journalist after military service.

“I have always loved to read but reading became increasingly difficult for me.  Even listening to books was a struggle.  I would have to close my eyes and remain very still [to hear and understand the words],” says Amanda.  

“That is because visual and auditory skills are linked,” explains Dr. Zelinsky.  “When changes occur to one of those sensory systems, the other is affected as well.”

Amanda worked at the Los Angeles Times, New York Post and elsewhere but often made a habit of leaving positions, largely because of her reading and comprehension problems, before employers could “catch on” to the various problems she could not explain. She moved briefly to France to “study, taste and talk about” wine and later returned to the United States where she became a freelance travel writer.  “My writing work took me to some of the greatest libraries in the world, which was particularly ironic because my symptoms prevented me from reading any of their books,” she states.

Getting back her reading comprehension would mean everything to Amanda, and she now feels she is making progress toward that goal.  “I am calmer, more comfortable.  It is all forward progress, and really very exciting.”

Dr. Adams agrees.

“I would say to all military Veterans with post-concussive symptoms, that it does not matter how long you have been struggling.  Do not give up.  Seek help at places like the Mind-Eye Institute to learn how to use what skills you have leftover more efficiently.”

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