Mind-Eye Glasses Get Him Jogging to the Train Station
Filters on Lenses Help Restore Sense of Balance; He’s Back to Teaching
Clinton Wooderson felt so good after donning a pair of the Mind-Eye Institute’s “brain” glasses that he suggested something his family would have considered unthinkable a day earlier — “I feel I can jog with you to the train station.”
And, they did, “but we missed the train anyway,” laughs Clint, who says the placement of filters on the lenses of his specialized eyeglasses returned to him such a sense of balance that the physical therapists in his hometown of Bolivar, Missouri were literally “stunned” by his improvement. “They had heard of filters being used for stroke victims but were amazed at how well they improved my ability to complete physical therapy tasks,” says the 41-year-old Clint.
Of course, amazement at how “brain” glasses can affect Mind-Eye Institute patients is often a typical reaction. That’s because the Institute (www.mindeye.com), based in Northbrook, Ill., uses neuro-optometric rehabilitation combined with advanced eye-ear testing techniques to help brain-injured patients, including those with concussions, redevelop their visual processing capabilities – sometimes after years of having symptoms.
“Brain” glasses are intended to bend light in different ways across the retina, which is made up of brain tissue and is part of the central nervous system, explains Mind-Eye founder and executive research director, Deborah Zelinsky OD. “Light is converted into brain signals. In fact, the eye plays a critical role in routing information through multiple pathways, many of which are not part of eyesight. Variance in light signals on healthy brain tissue can forge new neurological pathways that eventually (with rehearsal) become new habits. Light stimulation also can circumvent damaged or disrupted pathways, enhancing a patient’s spatial awareness and perception and re-synchronizing sensory systems.”
To understand the euphoria that Clint experienced on that day in May 2019 “as I first stepped outside the Mind-Eye office with the lens filters I was wearing,” rewind to April 2017. That was when Clint, a high school speech and drama teacher, was accidentally struck in the forehead by a 2X4 board while assisting a student in assembling a stage prop. The blow literally “knocked me down.”
At the local hospital, he was diagnosed with a concussion and later began struggling with post-concussive symptoms. “I was experiencing disorienting spells and such extreme fatigue that I was oftentimes unable to function. I felt like a battery completely drained.”
Although Clint’s energy level eventually improved – at least, enough for him to continue teaching school during the 2017-18 academic year – “I was still having occasions of disorientation,” he says. Those spells worsened by the fall of 2018. “In September of that year, I had a really strong disorienting spell. I could not keep myself upright,” Clint recalls.
He returned to teaching, “but now I was struggling to get through the day.” He also had difficulties reading due to fatigue. He contacted his doctor and, while waiting in the doctor’s office, “I fell on the floor. I was so disoriented I could not get up.”
Testing at the nearby hospital found nothing physically wrong with Clint, but he was advised to see an ear, nose, throat specialist for an eardrum abnormality, and was checked by a neurologist for a potentially rare neurological disorder. Neither physician could find a treatable reason for his symptoms.
Meanwhile, “about this same time, I began experiencing problems with my arms and legs,” Clint says. “My movements were becoming ‘herky-jerky.’ I was having trouble walking and moving my arms. I developed a twitch in my left shoulder, and my head kept bobbing and rocking.”
Doctors referred Clint to the Mayo Clinic where, in January 2019, he underwent an intensive, weeklong physical and occupational therapy program. “The physicians at Mayo said my brain and body were not in synchronization,” Clint says. “The therapy program resulted in some improvement of my symptoms, and I started easing my way back into teaching again. But eventually the problems with movement and muscles returned. I could not keep my head straight – literally.”
It was then that a friend suggested a book to read – The Ghost in My Brain. Written by DePaul University Chicago professor Clark Elliott, PhD, an expert in artificial intelligence and published in 2015, the book details Dr. Elliott’s near-miraculous recovery – within a matter of weeks — from symptoms of a devastating traumatic brain injury after he underwent care at Designs for Strong Minds in Highland Park, Ill. and the Mind-Eye Institute.
“A lot of the symptoms [the author] describes are exactly what I was experiencing,” Clint says. He contacted the Mind-Eye Institute.
“I was not able to drive, so I took a bus from Springfield, Missouri to St. Louis, where I boarded an Amtrak train to Chicago. I felt at the time that I would not be able to handle the crowds at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. The more movement around me, the more disoriented I became,” he says.
At the Mind-Eye clinic, he underwent extensive tests, some of which seemed “almost hokey to me at the time.”
Especially “odd” to Clint was Dr. Zelinsky’s patented Z-Bell Test℠, in which an optometrist rings a small bell near the patient. With eyes closed, the patient must reach out and touch it. If the patient is unable to do so, the optometrist starts putting different lenses and filters over the patient’s closed eyes until he or she is able to touch the bell.
“Retinal stimulation 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 says. “By placing various types of lenses across a patient’s closed eyes, we shift the internal perception of space – and time.”
“Dr. Zelinsky told me the concussion – the blow to my forehead — is what had triggered all my symptoms,” Clint says. “She said the problem was in my peripheral eyesight pathways, but my current eyeglass prescription had been intended only to improve my central – 20/20 – eyesight. I have been wearing glasses since third grade.”
The current 20/20 eye evaluation process was developed in 1862 when much of the nation remained unsettled, overland travel was by horseback or horse-drawn wagons, and prairies and mountains dominated individuals’ peripheral sight, Dr. Zelinsky says. “This 160-year-old testing system addresses central eyesight by having the patient consciously look at non-moving targets across a darkened room, but ignores peripheral retinal processing, which comprises an overwhelming percentage of a person’s visual awareness. ‘Brain’ glasses are intended to provide a patient comfort – not sharpen a patient’s eyesight acuity.”
Clint received his first pair of Mind-Eye “brain” glasses in April 2019. “That’s when my twitching stopped,” he says. “But I was still having some disorienting spells.”
He returned to the Mind-Eye at the end of May 2019. “For that trip, the whole family went. My wife drove me and our children to St. Louis. We then took a train to Chicago’s Union Station and from there traveled on the Metra train to Northbrook. We decided to walk the mile from the station to Mind-Eye.”
It was during this second visit when Dr. Zelinsky put the filters on Clint’s lenses.
“As soon as I left her office, I could tell the difference. My sense of balance had returned. That’s when I told my wife, ‘Let’s jog to the Metra station so that maybe we can catch the next train,’” he says.
Two months later (August 2019) during a follow-up trip to the Mind-Eye Institute, Clint was able to manage air travel and the hustle-bustle of O’Hare Airport. Today, he wears a third pair of individualized “brain” glasses and remains hopeful his improvement continues.
As for work, Clint is back to full-time high school teaching, including, yes, technical theatre and student assembly of props. “I just am much more careful now, especially when it comes to handling 2X4s,” he jokes.
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