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Vision and Neuroplasticity

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Vision

Vision is a very unique sense which involves many intricate skills that go through a developmental process. As opposed to the senses of taste and hearing which you either have or you don’t, vision consists of many different aspects which can be developed over time. Another difference is that other developmental processes are much more noticeable. For example, a parent will usually notice if a child is having difficulty crawling or walking. On the other hand, if a child is having challenges with certain visual skills, it could be very difficult for a parent to notice until the child starts complaining. Often these visual challenges will only manifest when a child starts grade school and the demand for applying various complex visual skills becomes essential. At that point, the child may start suddenly complaining about certain symptoms that come along with delays in visual development. Until that point, the parents and often the child himself would not be aware of these challenges, but there are more than eighteen necessary visual skills that are essential for a classroom setting and a child may need to still work on developing some of these abilities.

Vision Is Processed In the Brain

Vision Is Processed In the Brain

In order to understand the development process of vision, it is crucial to understand vision itself. Vision could be thought of as containing a hardware and a software department. The hardware would involve for example, a person who is near-sighted and is prescribed glasses to help her see 20/20 on the eye chart. However, there is a whole other area associated with vision which is less known that includes intricate visual abilities that are represented by the concept of software. It is fascinating to consider that every aspect of our brain involves the visual pathway which means that everything that we do incorporates vision as the dominant sense. There’s a whole skillset incorporated with vision which can be developed with vision therapy to ensure the full picture of optimal eyesight.

Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity

The brain has the incredible ability to develop, adapt and learn new things over time. This may seem obvious when it comes to learning new skills, but it’s not necessarily considered when describing vision, even though it most definitely is applicable. This is where thinking of vision as involving software comes into effect. There could be miscommunication between the visual pathways, the eyes and the brain. These pathways and processes could be developed over time using vision therapy to strengthen the “software” aspect of vision.

There’s a misconception that neuroplasticity ends at eight years old which would mean that the brain can only be trained to develop properly until that age and afterwards, it’s too late for the visual system to develop further. This is incorrect because we know that the brain is able to learn new skills and adapt to new challenges past age eight and that applies to the visual pathway as well. Vision therapy can help the brain develop much past age eight in wondrous ways. It enables strengthening of the various skills associated with vision, which means strengthening all aspects that are required to meet visual demands which are essential in our day to day life.

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Common Questions

In vision therapy, we work with certain visual skills to develop them properly. This involves teaching the patient to be very aware of what their eyes are doing and learning how to control their visual system in an optimal manner. With this awareness they can reprogram their visual system and begin to maximize the various necessary abilities. The goal is that over time, their neurological pathways will operate automatically in this more efficient way without having to think about what their eyes and brain are doing to work together properly.
In the past, once vision therapy was completed, it was rare for the patient to have to come back for further treatment due to regression. In approximately the last five years, it has become more common for patients to return for treatment because the effects of vision therapy have diminished. In these cases, it is important to note that the patients come back with a much milder case compared to how they were prior to vision therapy. It is believed that this regression is a result of how digital our world has become and is increasingly becoming. There is a much higher demand now for our eyes to overexert themselves to accommodate constant functions and tasks very close up. Our eyes require a break from focusing on nearby targets, but today’s digital world does not allow for that sufficiently. We find ourselves taking a break from working on our laptop by watching videos on a tablet. Both of these involve near vision and we must be conscious to give our eyes a break from focusing so close up. If a patient comes back for vision therapy, we incorporate this concept of allowing our eyes to relax in addition to strengthening the neurological pathways. Summary Vision involves so much more than what meets the eye. It is a very complex sense that involves a vast skill set which goes through a developmental process. Due to the phenomenon of neuroplasticity, the neurological pathways associated with vision can constantly be developed and strengthened.
Factors that can enhance neuroplasticity include consistent mental stimulation, physical exercise, and proper sleep. Engaging in challenging cognitive tasks, learning new skills, and practicing mindfulness or meditation can promote neural growth and reorganization. Additionally, certain therapies, like vision therapy overseen by an optometrist, can target and improve specific neural pathways related to vision. Lastly, a balanced diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants also supports brain health and plasticity.
Several factors can hinder the brain's neuroplasticity. Chronic stress, lack of adequate sleep, excessive alcohol consumption, and prolonged exposure to toxins can negatively impact the brain's ability to adapt and rewire itself. Moreover, a sedentary lifestyle, isolation, or lack of mental stimulation can slow neural growth and connectivity.
Vision and Neuroplasticity
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Summary

Vision involves so much more than what meets the eye. It is a very complex sense that involves a vast skill set which goes through a developmental process. Due to the phenomenon of neuroplasticity, the neurological pathways associated with vision can constantly be developed and strengthened.

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