‘Brain Glasses' Help Bring Back His Normal
“I feel more normal than I have in years,” Mark Leonard affirms, after just a few weeks wearing a pair of prescription eyeglasses from the Mind-Eye Institute in Northbrook, Ill. “In fact, by the second full day of wear, I realized something was different; I no longer felt weird.”
“Weird” is what Mark calls his sense of “something not right with the connection between my eyes and my brain” after undergoing cataract surgery on both lenses several years ago. “The surgery went well, but, after both eyes were done, I began having episodes of double vision and sometimes seeing a gray field. My brain seemed to be telling me something is not right here, and I would have to close my eyes and look away momentarily to rid myself of the feeling.”
Initially, the “weirdness” came and went, but, about a year ago, the feeling started becoming a daily occurrence, Mark relates. “I went to an ophthalmologist, a neurologist and a neuro-ophthalmologist; all of them checked me and said my eyes appeared to be healthy. A general practice physician thought I might be having transient ischemic attacks – mini-strokes. So, I underwent an ultrasound scan of my carotid artery to make sure a sufficient amount of blood was getting through it to my brain. Everything checked out okay.”
However, it was a visit from his brother-in-law and their discussion about the problem Mark was experiencing that eventually put Mark, a Puget Sound resident, on a journey to recovery, including an appointment at the Mind-Eye Institute — some 2,000 miles from Mark’s home.
“My brother-in-law had read the book The Ghost in My Brain. In fact, he bought me my own copy after he learned about my problem. I have never had a traumatic brain injury like the one described in the book, but the author’s discussion of the interrelationship between brain and eyes resonated with me. I contacted the Mind-Eye Institute and visited the team there in June (2021),” says Mark.
Clark Elliott, Ph.D., an academician at DePaul University in Chicago, authored The Ghost in My Brain, published in 2015. In it, he details his successful, two-year search for help following a severe traumatic brain injury – a search that ended in appointments with optometrist Deborah Zelinsky, OD, founder and executive director for research at the Mind-Eye Institute, and with cognitive restructuring specialist Donalee Markus, PhD, of Designs for Strong Minds in Highland Park, Ill.
At the Mind-Eye Institute, Mark underwent a series of tests, which he calls “thorough and amazing,”
“There were perceptual and memory tests, balance and coordination assessments. After all the testing, I met with Dr. Zelinsky and another optometrist, Dr. Myers (Dan Myers, OD), and they came up with a prescription for an individualized pair of glasses,” Mark recalls. “Meanwhile, I am thinking, ‘I don’t see how glasses could possibly help normalize the association between my eyes and brain.’ But, in fact, I was more scared than skeptical. If these glasses are not the solution, then what do I do.”
But they did prove the solution. Although Mind-Eye optometrists totally agreed with Mark’s previous physicians’ assessments of his eyes being healthy, seeing clearly, and not being paralyzed, the additional testing uncovered some subtle imbalances affecting his interaction with the surrounding environment. The prescription that Drs. Myers and Zelinsky arrived at emphasized Mark’s peripheral eyesight and linked his perception of sound and sights with his perception of space.
Indeed, Dr. Zelinsky and the entire Mind-Eye Institute team have achieved worldwide recognition for their use of therapeutic eyeglasses, lenses, prisms, and filters with other optometric interventions to vary the amount, intensity and angle of light that passes through the retina. In so doing, they have lessened symptoms and restored comfort to patients needing to rebuild visual processing skills compromised by brain injury, stroke, and other neurological disorders. The unique optometric skills Dr. Zelinsky teaches at the Mind-Eye Institute also have helped develop new processing capabilities in patients with attention and other learning deficiencies.
The customized eyeglasses “work by bending light in diverse ways across the retina, which is composed of brain tissue and functions as part of the central nervous system,” Dr. Zelinsky explains. The light triggers chemical changes that eventually result in electrical signals, which propagate through the optic nerve for further brain processing. The glasses are intended to help restore a person’s visual processing capabilities, some of which require central and peripheral eyesight to function in synchronization with listening, and sensory integration.
“In just weeks, I am already about 98 percent back to normal and feeling just fine,” says Mark.
Although both Mark and author Clark Elliott had quick recoveries after their perception of sounds and sights were linked, their experiences are not always the norm nor are they guaranteed for every patient.
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