The ability to gather and process visual information is a complex process. This process begins before birth and never stops as long as you are alive. The ability to look at something, see it, understand what it is, maintain an understanding of its context, keep track of it in motion, predict what will happen next, and position one’s self in an appropriate way to take ACTION in an accurate and efficient manner is a fascinating science we call VISION. Vision involves an estimated 80-90% of your brain. The most efficient system we have for using vision is the pathway of information processing through the eyes.
Why consider improving visual abilities?
“When Vision is working well it guides and leads in all that we do; when not it interferes.”
—Dr. John Streff
Visual training is the process by which we improve visual abilities. It is complex and simple at the same time. Because vision is the only sensory system that is also a motor system it can be trained as a sender and a receiver. Because vision has so many brain pathways there are many different ways to access it. In general, we group the kinds of brain pathways into voluntary, involuntary and cortical systems. First we have to gather visual information, then process it and then we use vision to respond. There are aspects of each kind of neurological processing in each phase of vision: input, processing and output.
The practice of voluntary skills such as eye movements, converging the eyes and eye-hand coordination among others is the most typical kind of training. It is more like learning to play the violin than like weight lifting. The patterns of behavior in how we use our eyes, built over time, affect our efficiency in doing such tasks. Reading, drawing, shooting baskets, driving a car are good examples. We set up the conditions for an individual to practice better patterns of behavior.
In this office we also address the processes that happens automatically when the conditions are right. Many visual systems are in the automatic process. They include the focus of the eyes, the functional visual field, the reaction of the pupil, the ability to keep central attention without losing peripheral awareness. In order to train these systems, we need to set up the conditions for them to be developed. These systems are part of the more primitive part of your brain and training it involves understanding these autonomic principles. A single photon entering the eye activates a series of chemical reactions in the brain. The autonomic state you are in determines the nature of the chemical response.
Thirdly the visual system is how you think and learn. This cognitive part of vision is not bound by space and time. We can experiment with possible outcomes based on our previous experience, we create mental processing shortcuts to remember, recall and respond in a thoughtful way and or in a reflexive way. Simply imagining yourself (a purely chemical visual act in the brain) doing an action a certain way will affect the outcome. Training this aspect of vision includes visualization, techniques to improve reading, storing and recalling visual information for spelling, seeing visual relationship to manipulate numbers and understanding mathematical concepts, interpreting facial features to understand social cues and so much more!
Vision is always changing and adapting according to our environment, our habits and repetitive behaviors, and our genetics. (In the absence of deteriorating disease) there is no end to being able to improve it. For this reason, we take the attitude that we coach and train vision according the needs of the patient. We can work with the struggling student, someone who has suffered injury or stroke, the person with headaches, double vision, the B+ student who dreams of being an attorney or physician, the elite athlete, the individual who sees themselves as a person always improving skills, health and fitness just as a matter of principle.
I say the eyes are simply the most efficient pathway for using vision because you need only be in a dark room, hear a noise that triggers a response and your visual system begins constructing images which did not enter through your eyes in this moment. Scientists have elicited visual imagery by stimulating the tongue. But the eyes reach out farther and faster than any other system in the human body. I can see the weather pattern over Pikes’s peak 90 miles away. I cannot hear it, taste or touch it. Integrating vision with all other senses is part of it, but simply vision dominates whether it is working well or not. In severe situations we actively suppress visual information and appear to be using auditory or kinesthetic information as a dominant, but one must not ignore the energy that goes into suppressing the dominant visual information.
Visual training uses lenses, prisms, and light. The eye is a light transformer. It takes a single photon of light and triggers a cascade of chemical responses that become visual information. All of the many approaches that improve vision are beneficial and we applaud them. The use of lenses, prisms and light is unique to optometric visual training and training with these elements allows us to train all aspects of vision. Without access to vision with these elements training is severely limited.