Today’s guest blogger is Dr. Pat Pirotte.  Dr. Pirotte practices in Wichita Kansas.  He graduated from the Southern California College of Optometry and he currently provides clinical education to students from several optometry schools.  His practice is also the site of a private practice residency program in vision therapy.   Dr. Pirotte currently serves on the COVD’s Board of Directors. 

“One of the most important functions of our brain is to integrate the information from all our senses into a perceptual whole. Only then can we perceive the world as single, integrated, and stable, allowing us to move through it, molding it to our needs and desires. Brain injury shatters this wholeness.”  Dr. Sue Barry, June 2014.

How should we think of the critical connection between brain injuries and the visual consequences?  First, consider the things that the visual system does that we don’t ordinarily appreciate. For example when your brain is hurt the coordination between the systems in your brain gets fouled up. How?

Think of your visual system as the proverbial “canary in the coal mine,” that gives you an idea of how easily your brain is working. Because our vision so immediate and so intimate to our daily lives it is often the first system to signal something’s wrong.  An easy way to think about this is that your brain has two channels: the first channel answers the question, “what is it that I am looking at?”  The second channel answers the question,  “where is it?” We ordinarily coordinate these two channels effortlessly.

Think about a modern TV that has picture in picture capability. You could watch Downton Abbey for example, on one part of your screen and see a basketball game on the other part. Both pictures would be clear; you could see them both at the same time, and you could decide which one you wanted to pay attention to for your own viewing pleasure.  You could switch back and forth between the 2 programs, maybe changing your focus from one to the other when there is a commercial on one channel.

Now imagine that instead of those two simple pictures being available to you, they are mixed up. Sometimes one picture overlaps the other one, or the TV is double so you get confused because sometimes there are 4 channels. Sometimes one picture is clear and the other one has static, or you can’t seem to find the second picture.   Sometimes you can hear the audio easily on the picture you want to and other times it’s completely missing.  And you cannot find the remote control to attempt to fix it.

In other words, your capacity to easily and effortlessly see what you want when you want would be terribly compromised.  The result is being overwhelmed, overstimulated, confused, and lost in a three-dimensional world.  That’s an easy way to understand visually what often happens when you sustain a brain injury.

Luckily, there is help!  If you feel you have visual problems after suffering a brain injury, find an optometrist specializing in vision rehabilitation.  Vision should not be an early warning system.  Your vision should support your recovery.