A few weeks ago Heather brought a 2001 publication of the Journal of Behavioral Optometry on Syntonic Phototherapy to my attention. After reading the article I was thoroughly convinced it was the next step to take in order to reach my final goal of 3D vision more quickly after a painstaking twenty year detour. I would urge anyone interested in or already in the process of undergoing Vision Therapy to have a look at this article. Beneath you can find a summary of what is discussed in the article but nevertheless I would recommend reading the original for more (practical) details and compelling arguments. A link to the full article is provided here.
The benefits of light and especially sunlight are intuitive and have been proven on a physical as well as psychological level. Colors are light dispersed at different wavelengths. Sunlight or natural light contains every wavelength in the spectrum as occasionally seen in the event of a rainbow. Because of our modern lifestyles and possibly geographical location we are becoming victims of mall illumination. A California study showed that students in classrooms with predominantly natural lighting performed better than artificially lit students. Furthermore light therapy is used in Scandinavian countries to fight seasonal depression during dark winters.
IMPLICATIONS FOR VISUAL REHABILITATION
Syntonic phototherapy takes advantage of our favorable reaction to different wavelengths of light by exposing patients in a controlled way to different light colors on a regular basis . When syntonic phototherapy is properly used in conjunction with traditional behavioral optometric approaches, the efficiency, speed and success rates of vision therapy increase dramatically.
Patients most likely to benefit have not just one or two but several visual benefits: deficits in ocular mobilities, accommodation, visual discrimination, binocularity, visual information processing skills and constricted visual fields. (I hit the jackpot I might say)
Success of treatment is judged by changes in symptoms, behavior (mood/attitude, coping ability, and social/verbal skills), performance (academic, athletic and expressive) and changes in optometric test results. The syntonic evaluation places special importance and consideration of papillary reactions and visual fields. (I’ve regularly been saying to my optometrist that I have trouble taking in the whole picture whenever she’s showing me something, so this is something that interests me in particular.)
Studies since 1927 report between 9-20% of unselected school children have fields of less than 15° in diameter. Some children lose all but the central 1° or 2° of vision. Constricted visual fields are related to inadequate functional visual abilities and overall learning and performance deficits. Constricted fields can be related to binocular instability, since it is difficult to maintain fusion if the fields are only 2, 3 or even 10° in diameter.
Field constrictions readily improve with syntonic treatment and this increase in useful vision is credited with the often seen gains in patient comfort, efficiency, self esteem and functional/binocular vision. Constricted field diameters will often double in extent after six to eight treatments and will continue to expand to full by 20 sessions. Striking changes in quality of test results, symptom reductions, performance, behavior and mood occur as a result of syntonics, especially when used in conjunction with other optometric therapy.
Consult the original text to read more about the studies performed by Kaplan (1983), Lieberman (1986) and Ingersol (1998-1999) confirming these results and more practical details. Part of the explanation is that light reaching the visual cortex through the eyes initiates a cascade of positive biochemical reactions affecting other brain regions. In doing so, light promotes the process of brain plasticity but there is more…
IMPLICATIONS FOR GENERAL HEALTH
Measuring light’s biological effects is a complex business. Outcomes are dependent on wavelength, intensity, duration, timing and number of repetitions. Stimulating the body with light at the right wavelength at the right intensity has all kinds of healing qualities. There are short term and long term effects.
Karu’s research (see original article) explains how light finds just the right places in the body to heal. She found that starving or oxygen deprived tissue responds to the irradiation. The response was not found in healthy tissue. Bacteria already reproducing exponentially are little changed, but the application of light triggers huge increases in both reproduction and cell mass in initially stagnant colonies. Wounded chronically inflamed and ischemic cells are characterized by their acidic, hypoxic and inhibited state. Light drives them toward oxidation, balanced pH, and vitality.
LLLT (low level laser therapy) has been successfully applied in laboratory experiments and in clinics for relieving pain, resolving inflammation, enhancing tissue repair mechanisms, stimulating immune function, defeating infection, and improving damaged neurological tissue.
Laser therapy has also been used for preventing dental caries and stress-related heart and cerebrovascular disease and for healing cancer, asthma, herpes simplex, rheumatoid arthritis, intractable wounds (ulcers), damaged nerves, tendons, muscles and bones, and for reducing infection, inflammation and tinnitus.
The explanation is threefold.
Light may (1) directly trigger photoreceptors in cells in skin or deeper in the body, (2) may stimulate photosensitive elements in the blood by passing through the skin or through the eye into the vast retinal vascular beds to deliver photic information everywhere by way of the blood stream. (3) Finally, light may stimulate clock and other photoreceptive areas in the brain via the retina through the optic nerve.
Again, I would recommend reading the real thing. Very interesting examples are given in the text.
For instance, (1) a rat brain stimulated by light levels the same as those which penetrate through the skull naturally releases an extra high dose of a neuroinhibitor called GABA implicated in sex drive, anxiety, aging, inflammation and epilepsy.
(2) Light sensitive blood constituents carry photic information and energy to affect various body functions. A well-known physiological effect of visible frequencies of light on blood is relaxation of blood vessel walls mediated by increases in free Nitric Oxide.
(3) Last but not least it is said that every individual cell undergoes daily cycles of activity and rest as the whole organism does. Daily oscillation of enzyme and hormone levels modify the timing of cell physiology, division, and growth. The various clocks oscillate in complex phase relationships. Generally these molecular clocks are synchronized with the solar day by environmental light. The quality of human health and performance depends on the synchronization of major 24-hour rhythm (core body temperature, REM sleep and plasma cortisol) with the 90-minute rest-activity or sleep wake rhythm (slow-wave sleep, skin temperature, plasma growth hormone). They can go out of phase with each other due to external cues (light-dark, hot-cold and behavioral/social) and when they do, health suffers along with mood. If poor health is a result of a rhythm disorder, fix the rhythm not the symptom.
An interesting history of this field of research called syntonics is also provided in the text. The name is derived from the syntonic principle which aims at synchronizing clock mechanisms identified in the brain as well as peripherally in organs, tissues and cells throughout the body.
I am amazed by how behavioral optometry keeps perfecting its practice by being open to and incorporating innovative ideas from other areas of research. After finding out a cure for strabismus has been hidden from me for 20 years I shouldn’t be surprised by anything anymore, yet I am. On the one hand it seems like a crazy idea to expose someone to light and they’d see better… On the other hand, the most intuitive and elegantly simple ideas often prove to be genius. Besides, we also radiate cancer and walk around with miniature computers in our pockets connected by wireless internet enabling us to talk to someone half way around the world in a split second. Heather seems to have a positive reaction and as soon as I try it, I will report on it as well.
PS: A last note I want to leave you with is a video testimony of a mother whose son was in a to me very recognizable situation. Towards the end she talks about her experience with syntonics and how surprised she was at its effectiveness.