Eye Glasses Prove ‘Life-Changing’ for Former Hockey Player
Just as Book Author States, Mind-Eye Institute Works ‘Magic’
Debbie Buchanan was skeptical – at first. After years of coping with the debilitating symptoms of traumatic brain injury, she wondered whether the Mind-Eye Institute in Northbrook, Ill. might be “just another thing that won’t work.”
But her skepticism became hope, and her hope turned to belief when she began wearing the special eye glasses prescribed her by the Mind-Eye team.
“I call them my ‘brain’ glasses,” says Debbie, a former competitive hockey player, who was also an elementary school teacher and flight attendant before her brain-related symptoms worsened. “I put them on as soon as they arrived, and, for the first time in I don’t know how many years, my body finally relaxed a bit. [Those glasses] were life-changing – just getting relief from some of my symptoms and knowing I was on the right path [to recovery].”
Though still coping with sensitivity to sound, a blank area on the right edge of her visual field, some short-term memory issues, and “a slight auditory processing delay, my concentration has definitely improved” as a result of wearing the Mind-Eye glasses, says Debbie, a resident of St. Anne, Ill. The glasses are rewiring her brain, and each pair of lenses progressively helps enhance her processing.
Debbie is currently on her fifth eye glass prescription and says, “Now I am able to read and watch television for extended periods of time, and I actually want to go out and socialize with family and friends – not just stay at home.”
Of course, these are not ordinary eye glasses. They are what Mind-Eye professionals refer to as Brainwear™ — therapeutic lenses precisely designed to readjust a patient’s visual processing and eye-ear integration, says Deborah Zelinsky O.D., founder and research director of the Mind-Eye Institute and the doctor who performed Debbie’s initial evaluation. Each pair is individually designed.
“By changing the way light disperses across the retina, we can affect how the brain reacts to information about the environment and normalize a person’s spatial awareness, body movement and selective attention to sound,” says Dr. Zelinsky, who is internationally noted for her studies and clinical work on how alterations in light on the retina impacts brain function.
Visual processing goes far beyond the standard eye testing system of seeing with 20/20 clarity. The term processing refers to the ability of the brain (partially beneath a conscious level of awareness) to take many external sensory signals — from eyesight, hearing, smell, taste, touch — synthesize the information, and react and respond depending on internal sensory signals. Some of the stages of processing include:
- Interpreting various sensory signals from the environment,
- Linking the incoming information with previous knowledge,
- Linking the information with emotional systems
- Reacting at a reflex level (this affects processing)
- Deciding on an action/behavior/response.
When intact, visual processing enables people to understand and respond appropriately to the world around them. If circuitry is disrupted, however, people can be confused by the surrounding world.
Debbie’s troubles began in 1995 when she was knocked unconscious in a motor vehicle crash. Despite the injury, she continued playing hockey in a local adult league, sustaining a series of additional concussions over time. “No one then was talking about the potential repercussions of head trauma,” she says. “I like the game of hockey, so I kept playing.”
Meanwhile, she was unaware of having developed a blank space in her right-peripheral visual field, causing her to hit her head “over and over again” on car doors, doorway jambs, shelves and other overhead and side protrusions.
The headaches that Debbie was experiencing progressively got worse, as did other symptoms. “Sometimes, the ground seemed to tilt, and I would become unbalanced. At times, I lost my sense of taste and smell; my vision would get blurry. And, I would develop a ‘brain fog’ – walking around as if you are not quite with it,” she relates.
Her ability to concentrate, to read and to work at a computer grew increasingly difficult, and she became highly sensitive to noise. “Crowds, commotion would drive me crazy; I would become irritable, angry. I even had a hard time shopping because of the noise and all the things to look at.” It was sensory overload.
Her condition forced her to give up teaching, sports and work as a flight attendant. She took a part-time job at the public library. Finally, almost 20 years following her vehicle mishap, “I had reached a point where I was simply existing to get to work and to get home. I withdrew from family and friends. I did not even want to talk on the phone. I just wanted to be left alone,” Debbie recalls.
An unusually hard, accidental bump to her head in a restaurant prompted Debbie to contact her family physician, who, in turn, referred her to a neurologist. The neurologist diagnosed her as having a traumatic brain injury and prescribed anti-depressants in an effort “to make me calmer and happier, but the medications didn’t work,” she says.
That’s when she saw Clark Elliott Ph.D. on television promoting his book, The Ghost in My Brain: How a Concussion Stole My Life and How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Helped Me Get It Back. Elliott, a DePaul University academician and a specialist in applied artificial intelligence, wrote it to detail his eight years of struggles following a mild traumatic brain injury and his search for practitioners who could help him return to his old self. Published in 2015, the book describes what he calls the “magic” work of the Mind-Eye Institute (https://www.mindeye.com).
Debbie was intrigued. She checked the book out of the library. “It was a struggle to read it, but I got through it. At times, I had tears in my eyes because someone had put into words what I felt – the emotional toll that traumatic brain injury takes.”
As it did with Dr. Elliott, Debbie hoped that Mind-Eye “magic” help her. Her husband made the appointment.
“I recall during the drive to Mind-Eye that I was skeptical,” Debbie recalls. “Would this be another thing that didn’t work?”
But it did.
After extensive testing, including Dr. Zelinsky’s patented Z-Bell Test℠, Debbie had her first prescription for “brain” glasses.
The Z-Bell Test℠ is a simple but revolutionary method of checking a patient’s overall sense of surrounding space and his or her integration of visual processing with awareness of auditory space.
During the evaluation, 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. 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, Dr. Zelinsky explains.
Initially, Debbie had difficulty finding the bell. “I am very competitive – I was a hockey player – so, I became very frustrated not being able to touch the bell,” Debbie recalls. “But, then Dr. Zelinsky put different lenses over my [closed] eyes and suddenly I was hitting the bell.
“I recall [Dr. Zelinsky] telling me, ‘I can help you,’ and, in that moment, everything changed. Suddenly, I had hope – and she gave it to me. Today, my life is so much better.”
As an aside, Debbie says she mentioned to Dr. Zelinsky that she also was being treated for narcolepsy, a sleeping disorder, which she was diagnosed as having when she was in her 20s and for which she was taking medications.
“Dr. Zelinsky also prescribed me a set of filtered lenses, which I now wear for only 30 seconds each night before going to bed. As a result, I no longer need to take medication. My sleep specialist is fascinated.”
It’s like, well, “magic,” although one of Dr. Zelinsky’s patients has termed it “mathemagical,” since the work is firmly based in neuroscience and mathematics.
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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.