Today’s guest blogger is Dr. Robin Price. Dr. Price practices in Pleasant Grove, Utah.  He and his associate, Dr. Jarrod Davies, are the only Board Certified Fellows of COVD in Utah!  In fact, Dr. Price just completed a term on the Board of Directors of COVD.  He enjoys working with patients of all ages to help them overcome their visual problems but especially children with learning problems. 

A Google search for “The Space Between” brings up a song written by the Dave Matthews band. “The Space Between” I am referring to is a chapter in Fixing My Gaze: A Scientist’s Journey Into Seeing in Three Dimensions. In this book, Susan Barry, a neuroscientist and professor of neurobiology, describes how she went from perceiving space as rather flat and two-dimensional to developing the ability to see in 3-D.

“Space was very contracted and compacted. So if I looked at a tree, the leaves or the branches would appear to overlap one in front of another. But I didn’t actually see the pockets of space between the actual branches. So the world was actually smaller and more contracted before my vision changed.”

After working with a developmental optometrist in a program of office-based vision therapy, Dr. Barry developed stereopsis, or 3-D vision. A critical part of appreciating stereopsis is seeing the space between objects.  She describes seeing a snowfall for the first time in 3-D as follows:

One winter day, I was racing from the classroom to the deli for a quick lunch. After taking only a few steps from the classroom building, I stopped short. The snow was falling lazily around me in large, wet flakes. I could see the space between each flake, and all the flakes together produced a beautiful three-dimensional dance. In the past, the snow would have appeared to fall in a flat sheet in one plane slightly in front of me. I would have felt like I was looking in on the snowfall. But now, I felt myself within the snowfall, among the snowflakes. Lunch forgotten, I watched the snow fall for several minutes, and, as I watched, I was overcome with a deep sense of joy. A snowfall can be quite beautiful—especially when you see it for the first time.

You can listen to Dr. Barry describe her new visual experiences here:

Dr. Barry was recently profiled by the PBS program The Secret Life of Scientists & Engineers. You can watch her here:

I had the privilege of attending a seminar in Atlanta, Georgia a few years ago with Dr. Barry. As part of the seminar, I stood side by side with Dr. Barry as we were viewing the Spirangle vectogram projected onto a wall. We both had 3-D glasses on, but our experiences were very different. Dr. Barry was saying how certain letters were popping out from the wall and others were in a space behind the plane of the wall. I, however, could see some letters popping out slightly, but none appeared to be behind the wall to me. Dr. Barry could see the space between; I could not. I have always had “normal” vision, but Dr. Barry’s appreciation of depth was greater than mine. Since then I have worked to appreciate the space between objects, and my depth perception has improved.

Now, we recently returned from the annual meeting of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD). It was a wonderful gathering of developmental optometrists and vision therapists from all over the world. It was wonderful to be together with such a large group of dedicated professionals who understand the neurology of binocular vision and how to help patients like Susan Barry. But now we’ve returned home to our lives and practices, and often feel isolated in our science. It will be another year until we gather again. So my question is: How are you going to take advantage of the “space between” to promote developmental optometry and optometric vision therapy? Will you take the messages from the meeting back to your patients? Will you put in place the principles you learned to educate the public? Will you keep in touch with your colleagues from the College of Optometrists in Vision Development to continue learning throughout the year? Can you appreciate the “space between”?