My guest today is Dr. Deborah Zelinsky, OD, of the Mind-Eye Connection.
Joan Brunwasser: Welcome to OpEdNews, Deborah. Let's start with the basics. What is the Mind-Eye Connection?
Deborah Zelinsky: Mind-Eye Connection is the name of my optometric practice in Northbrook, Illinois, which was founded in 1992. The name refers to the relationship and interconnections between the eye and the brain. The lining of the eye, the retina, is an actual piece of brain tissue. It is not simply something that is connected to the brain. My mentor, optometrist, Dr. Albert Sutton, taught me that the eye is not only part of the brain, but serves as a two-way highway for signals transmitted from the body to the eyes and from the eyes to the mind and body. Conventional eye testing emphasizes critically important eye health and clarity of central eyesight.
However, once the health practitioner has determined that a patient's eyes are healthy, and eyesight is clear when looking at non-moving, high-contrast targets (such as letters on a chart), the next step should be a thorough evaluation of the mind-eye connection to assess brain function. Our Mind-Eye Connection is known internationally for the unique way we successfully treat patients of all ages. Many of those patients come to our office as a last resort, unable to be helped with traditional eye care methods. We see patients with learning problems, autism, developmental delays, attention problems, brain injury, concussions, mental health disorders, neurological impairments, legal blindness, and other types of brain dysfunctions.
JB: You deal with quite a wide range of issues; I had no idea! Apparently, there's a whole lot more going on than we once thought. How do you go about evaluating a patient's mind-eye connection after covering the basics of eye health? What are you looking for?
DZ: After the basics of eye health and central eyesight, comprehensive assessments at the Mind-Eye Connection include an additional five main elements: 1) the use of peripheral eyesight and how it combines with central (20/20) eyesight (conventional testing assesses EXISTENCE of peripheral eyesight, but not its function), 2) subconscious eye movement ability (being able to put eyes on "auto-pilot" when thinking), 3) stability of the auditory-visual linkage (critical in reading, learning and social skills), 4) adaptability to visual changes (how individuals respond to shifts in surrounding space) and 5) reaction time. This provides us with a bigger picture of brain processing. Currently, we have three other optometrists here in addition to myself -- Dr. Parres Wright, Dr. Daniel Nast and Dr. Grace Yoon. Dr. Yoon is about to move to southern California and evaluate Mind-Eye patients there.
For thirty years, the Mind-Eye Connection has served patients from national and international locations, assessing peripheral eyesight in addition to central (20/20) eyesight. Children with special needs or those on the autistic spectrum, benefit from having Mind-Eye eyeglass prescriptions, which evaluate whether brain signals are being processed efficiently in a synchronized manner. For instance, eyeglass prescriptions determined by using our patented Z-Bell testing helps synchronize eye-ear connections. Those Z-Bell prescriptions enhance patients' reading, listening and attention in a majority of cases. The individualized glasses create a stable balance between central and peripheral eyesight, as well as auditory and visual localization ability.
The rods and cones in the eye -- cells that react to light -- have been researched for close to 200 years. However, in 2002, a new cell type was discovered in the retina -- one, which also reacts to light, but receives its information indirectly from both internal sources, such as the body's thyroid function, as well as from external light sources. For instance, if a body is under stress, chemical information is transmitted to these specific eye cells, resulting in either a shutdown or a sustained hypersensitivity of the peripheral eyesight as a protective mechanism. This is why many people complain of light sensitivity after a brain injury -- each peripheral retina is hypersensitive. Research shows that in some mental disorders, a hypersensitivity to changes in lighting develops. For instance, many patients can not fall asleep if lights are on in a bedroom. Being able to filter out the light helps them.
JB: There's lots to talk about here. Through your comprehensive eye examination, you are able to evaluate, for instance, whether the eyes and ears are synchronized. Aren't our eyes and ear always in sync? And if not, what happens when they're not?
DZ: No, they are not always in sync. After twenty-four years of working with eye/ear connections, we find that more than 20 percent of people don't have solid synchronization of their auditory and visual signals. In fact, just asking people in this group what happens inside their heads while they are reading can elicit interesting -- and different -- answers. Some of these people visualize book characters; others hear the characters; still others hear a narration (rather than the actual characters) with no visual image. They either watch or listen, but cannot easily do both. They will often miss social cues that entail body language, facial expressions, tone of voice and content of voice.