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Benefits Achieved Through Therapy

Meet Susan Barry, a professor of neurobiology in the department of biological sciences at Mount Holyoke College and the author of "Fixing My Gaze: A Scientist's Journey Into Seeing in Three Dimensions." Her story illustrates the obstacles she overcame, through therapy, to develop the skills needed to succeed and fully enjoy life. Susan R. Barry - "Fixing My Gaze"

When neuroscientist Susan Barry was fifty years old, she took an unforgettable trip to Manhattan. As she emerged from the dim light of the subway into the sunshine, she saw a view of the city that she had witnessed many times in the past but now saw in an astonishingly new way.

Skyscrapers on street corners appeared to loom out toward her like the bows of giant ships. Tree branches projected upward and outward, enclosing and commanding palpable volumes of space. Leaves created intricate mosaics in 3D. With each glance, she experienced the deliriously novel sense of immersion in a three dimensional world.

Barry had been cross-eyed and stereoblind since early infancy.

"Seeing the three-dimensional world with two-dimensional retinas presents the brain with two problems. To locate an object in space requires depth perception, which can be acquired from one eye alone through size, perspective, and motion parallax. Stereopsis is an entirely different quality that gives the world dimensional; it requires binocular vision. Strabismus is the main reason for disrupted stereopsis, although binocular vision fails to develop in a few ostensibly normal persons. This book is about what people with disrupted stereopsis are missing and how the condition can be remedied even late in life."

- New England Journal of Medicine

"I was 20 years old and a college student before I learned that I did not see the world like everyone else. I had been cross-eyed as a baby, but three childhood surgeries made my eyes look straight. Because my eyes looked normal, I assumed I saw normally too. But, in fact, I was stereoblind -- unable to see in three dimensions. That means I could not see the volumes of space between objects. Instead, things in depth appeared piled one on top of another, making me feel nervous and confused in cluttered environments. As a child, I didn't understand why my friends were so entertained when they looked through a View-Master. I didn't see Disney characters or Superman popping out at me. All I saw was a flat image."

- Los Angeles Times

"This book could change other people's lives likewise. It will surely persuade people with eye alignment problems to seek optometric therapy. It will surely alert some parents of under performing or difficult children to a possible source of their problems. With the added evidence it offers of the brain's perennial plasticity, this book will encourage us all because it suggests that if people can reconstruct pathways of vision, there are other things they might succeed in doing. It is a pleasant and optimistic thought indeed, that at any point in life we might, if determined enough, be able to fix things, improve, mend, and grow in positive ways: even to see more clearly, and not just with our eyes."

- Barnes and Noble

Excerpts From One-On-One Interview With Sue Barry -

How long before you saw definitive progress?

I began to see progress within the first month. My gaze appeared more stable and I began to notice pockets of space between objects. 

In "Fixing My Gaze" you mention several vision therapy activities such as Marsden Ball, Brock String and  Vectograms. Is there one activity that was your favorite?

My favorite activity was the Brock string because it gave me the feedback to learn how to point my two eyes simultaneously at the same place in space. I could feel my eyes moving in concert and this was very exciting. The first time I saw stereo depth in the Polaroid vectograms - it was the clown vectogram - was also very special. 

Now that you've had stereopsis for several years, do you find yourself at times taking it for granted as most people do?

No. My vision continues to improve and I have taken to walking everywhere just so I can feel myself moving through this three dimensional world. I am still surprised by what I can see. One advantage, I suppose, of not having stereovision for half a century is that I never take my vision for granted. I feel like I have been given a great gift. 

Thank you for your time. Is there anything else you'd like add before we go?

I hope my book will teach people that the brain is capable of rewiring at any age, will broadcast the importance and effectiveness of optometric vision therapy, and will help many children as they progress through school.