A Sudden Stroke, a Skeptical Pastor, and Brainwear™
What Seems Like ‘Snake Oil’ Changes Pastor’s Life
Pastor John Myers had been struggling for seven years with the neurological effects of a stroke, and none of the specialists he saw had been able to help. “My balance was off. I had dizziness, vertigo, and my thinking was muddled,” John says. “But all they [specialists] could tell me was that they had no idea how to repair the damage [from the stroke]. They said I would simply have to learn how to cope.”
So, excuse this 62-year-old pastor of the Temple Baptist Church in Salida, Colorado, if he were at first a bit skeptical when he learned about the Mind-Eye Institute in Northbrook, Ill., and the work the team there is doing to mitigate symptoms of traumatic brain injury, concussion, and other neurological issues. “How can working with my eyes and prescribing me glasses help with my balance issues? What value is there in this?” Pastor John asked himself.
He was not even completely convinced when Mind-Eye optometrist Dan Myers OD talked to him by phone, learned about his symptoms and then nonchalantly told him, “Oh, we can fix that.”
But a trip to the Institute in September 2020, some extensive testing that Pastor John refers to as “atypical,” and a follow-up prescription for colored filters and lenses changed his mind – and his life.
“Initially, I was only supposed to wear the tinted filters for 30 seconds in the morning and 30 seconds in the evening,” Pastor John says. The filters were designed to activate only certain receptors in John’s eye – the ones that respond to that particular wavelength, says Deborah Zelinsky OD, the Mind-Eye Institute’s founder and executive director of research.
Within the first four-to-five days of exposure to the prescribed color/wavelength, Pastor John says his balance issues “were nearly gone.” Meanwhile, the new therapeutic “brain” glasses, which were delivered afterwards to his home, seemed to diminish his dizziness, and help him think more clearly.
“I realized that what they (Mind-Eye Institute) are doing is out of the box, but having a significant, positive impact on people with a wide range of very difficult issues,” Pastor John says. “Who knew that angling light in different ways on the eyes could have such beneficial effects. The Mind-Eye Institute has basically changed my life.”
“Visual processing is what enables all of us to respond to our environment in normal ways,” Dr. Zelinsky explains. “However, if brain circuitry is disrupted due to injury, such as stroke, people can become confused and exhibit inappropriate reactions and responses to movement, sounds, and light.”
At the Mind-Eye, optometrists use “Brainwear™” glasses to bend light in different ways across the retina, which is composed of brain tissue. The light can be made to selectively target specific groups of receptors in the eye. These receptors, when activated, convert the light into chemical signals, eventually triggering electrical signals that propagate through neurons. Those signals can constrict musculature surrounding blood vessels, impacting ocular blood flow in a process called neuro-vascular coupling. Ocular blood flow is related to brain blood flow in the larger blood vessels. Therefore, brain function can be regulated through blood flow changes, which are affected by eyeglasses, Dr. Zelinsky says.
“Using light to stimulate the retina leads to creation of new brain signaling pathways,” Dr. Myers adds.
For Pastor John, stroke had damaged some of his signaling pathways, causing him to “lean to the left and fall all the time, experience dizziness, and spend two to three times longer reading texts and preparing my Sunday sermons. Sometimes, during my Sunday message, I would have to grasp for a word. My brain was just not communicating properly with my mouth.”
In his search for solutions through the standard health care system, he saw specialist after specialist, including a pain management professional who ruled out Pastor John’s prior back injury, which he had sustained years earlier while in college, as being a possible cause of his balance issues. Pastor John even underwent a brain scan ordered by a neurologist and was told that his brain showed changes similar to those of a patient with multiple sclerosis (MS). He was given medication for MS, “and that muddled my thinking even more,” he states.
His journey to Mind-Eye began after someone recommended that he read The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge MD and The Ghost in My Brain, published in 2015 and written by former Mind-Eye patient Clark Elliott PhD. Dr. Elliott struggled with the effects of traumatic brain injury for eight years before finding symptomatic relief at the Institute.
“At that point, I thought ‘why not give it [Mind-Eye] a try,’” Pastor John says.
He adds now that what the Mind-Eye team is doing with the brain is, well, “amazing.”
“They have been getting another part of my brain to take over the work of what my stroke has impaired,” he says.
To whomever will listen, Pastor John has been relating the results of his visits to the Mind-Eye.
“People have been asking about my trip to the Chicago area. But learning what has happened to me is proving to be such a novel thing. Sounds a lot like snake oil; it does not meet the standards of [their] logic,” Pastor John says. “Recently, I had a phone conversation with my neurologist, and she listened intently. A local optometrist who has read The Brain That Changes Itself has been quite supportive.”
“People do not realize that eyes are not simply for exploring the surrounding environment; many, many other visual skills are linked to retinal processing,” Dr. Zelinsky says. “The brain is plastic, meaning it is readily able to change at the cellular level. Because of this plasticity, this adaptability, we can help patients develop new informational pathways in their brains. Each person’s brain is different, and Mind-Eye takes that into account. Especially after a brain injury, patients need to have an updated visual evaluation.”
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