Archive for the ‘Eye on the News’ Category

A new study shows VEGF164, a molecule commonly triggering blood vessel growth, surprisingly contributes to the neural development of your vision

There is more to vision than just your eyeballs. Sure information and images are collected by the eye and the retina but that info is then transmitted to the brain to be analyzed and interpreted in the visual cortex. You could sort of say your brain tells your eyes what you are seeing, or at least what all that visual data means. How does the info get from your eyes to your brain? Along perhaps the original ‘information superhighway’ well, at least an information superhighway of VISION known as the Visual Pathway.

The Visual Pathway starts in the retina, which is the sight-seeing tissue that lines the inside of each eye. This tissue changes the images you are seeing into chemical signals, then electrical signals. The electrical signals travel along a series of retinal ganglion nerve cells to the brain. You can think of these nerve cells as vision highways. Early along their path in the brain, the highways from each eye meet at a fork in the road. This is known as the optic chiasm and it is shaped like an X because there are two ‘entrances’ to the chiasm where information comes in from each eye  and then two exits from the chiasm to the right and left hemispheres of the brain. At this X intersection, some information from the right eye gets transferred to the left side of the brain and some information from the left eye gets transferred to the right side of the brain.  So, why the crossover?

Well, we know that images from both eyes (put together in the brain) are essential for binocular vision which gives us our depth perception and 3-D vision. But what triggers the nerve cells from each eye to find their way to the brain during visual development? And what triggers them to swap to different sides of the brain? Recent research may have the beginning of a surprising new answer.

Dr. Lynda Erskine, of the University of Aberdeen and Dr. Christiana Ruhrberg, of the University College London, have conducted research on visual development in mice and shockingly discovered that VEGF164, a molecule usually known for triggering the growth of blood vessels, is actually leading the nerve cells across the chiasm and causing neural cells to cross over to opposite sides of the brain during visual development. They saw that in mice who lacked VEGF 164, there was no crossing of ganglion cells at the optic chiasm. (source 1) Who knew that something we thought only would affect the development of blood vessels in the brain would also be responsible for neuron placement and organization!

The process of vision is so complex and we are learning more about it with each new study. The next time you are playing your favorite 3-D video game or kicking a soccer ball, you can thank your optic chiasm and VEGF 164 for optimizing your vision during your brain’s development, giving you all the info you need to see binocularly! (Just Kidding!)

Keep your eye on the ball, I'll keep my 'Eye on the News' for you!


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Gossip: Your ears may be doing the listening, but your Eyes are the ones taking all the notes!

The ears may lean towards gossip but your eyes find a way to protect yourself from it, if need be. An interesting experiment recently conducted at Northeastern University reveals that your eyes and brain select for information that may help save you from trouble or danger in the long run. Participants in this study were simultaneously shown a different image to each of their eyes using a mirror stereoscope. One of their eyes was shown an image of a house, while the other eye was shown an image of a human face at the same time. Each eye seeing a different image creates binocular rivalry and the brain ends up having to choose which image to pay the most attention to and it temporarily ignores or suppresses the other eye’s input. While the participants were shown these images they were told something about the face of the person in the image. They were either told a positive, neutral or negative statement and the subject matter of the statement was also social or non-social. For example, “he threw a chair at someone in his class” would be a negative, social statement, while “she drew the curtains in the room” would be a neutral, non-social statement.

The researchers then had people describe what they were seeing and for how long (the brain and the eyes may switch back and forth between the two images before deciding on which one will take over their visual consciousness completely). They found that participants reported their eyes (and brain) saw the image of a person’s face for a longer period of time when it was associated with a negative, social statement. They believe this may be a sort of protective mechanism; that if they focus on the face longer, knowing that it is a ‘bad guy,’ they may be creating a mental note to watch out for, or to stay far away from, that person in the future. Have you ever heard someone say that after they found out something about someone else, they ‘never looked at’ that person the same way? This may explain part of the reason why. Our eyes and our brain may be actively compiling a visual index of who is friend and who is foe. Interesting stuff! This gives new meaning to the phrase, I was “just looking out for you.”

(Source 1)(Source 2)

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Carrots CAN keep your eyes healthy but won't eliminate your need for glasses

I can’t count the number of times I have been asked by patients if carrots really can improve their eyesight. I think most people are looking for carrots to be a magical ‘cure’ for their refractive error. They want to eliminate their need for glasses and want carrots to make them have perfect 20/20 vision. While proper nutrition is necessary to maintain healthy eyes and can even help slow the progression of certain eye conditions and illnesses such as cataracts and macular degeneration, consuming a certain type of food can not ‘cure’ your need for glasses. HOWEVER, in recent studies it has been shown that what you eat CAN affect the sharpness of your vision! Say what, Dr. Murphy? Let me explain.

A study was recently conducted at the University of Reading where they measured the visual awareness and detection skills of 30 healthy young subjects two hours after they consumed either dark chocolate (which contains antioxidants called Cocoa Flavanols or CFs) or white chocolate (since white chocolate does not contain CF, this acted as a placebo).

*Yum! Chocolate!* Where do I sign up for this experiment again? Whoops, sorry. Back to the blog.

All kidding aside, the study set out to examine the effects of cocoa flavanols on vision and cognition. The experiment went like this, the 30 people were divided into two groups. One group consumed dark chocolate, the other consumed white. Then they were given a series of tests two hours later, when the CFs would have been releasing their physiological effects on the body. The tests given measured the subjects’ visual contrast sensitivity, motion sensitivity and direction detection and cognitive performance through visual spatial memory and a choice reaction cognitive task. They recorded the results and then a week later, they actually did the same experiment again with the same 30 subjects with one difference, they swapped sides! The white chocolate subjects now consumed dark chocolate and vice versa.

What they found, both weeks, was an improvement in visual and cognitive performances of the subjects who consumed the dark chocolate. The subjects who consumed the white chocolate had no real enhancement in their testing performance. This demonstrated that CFs really can temporarily improve your vision and cognition skills in as little as two hours, the effects of which are temporary. Researchers think that CFs increase blood flow to the eyes and brain and that this is what leads to enhanced functioning of those structures. They state that, “the results of the current study demonstrate for the first time that performance on tests of visual system function in healthy young adults can be improved by the acute consumption of CF.” (source)

More studies need to be done in this area to find out what this all means and how we could benefit from this knowledge but oh what fun that research will be! MMmmmm! =)

Dark Chocolate contains Cocoa Flavanols which can temporarily increase visual contrast sensitivity and visual detection.

Now I am not saying dark chocolate is better for you than carrots. I am not saying to eat dark chocolate everyday and substitute it for fruits and vegetables or your regular meal. I am not even saying that dark chocolate will cause improvements to your vision that you yourself will notice. I am bringing up this topic just to remind you that what you eat affects your body, sometimes in ways we haven’t even learned yet. So stick to a healthy, well-balanced diet. And a little indulgence consisting of a small amount of dark chocolate as a dessert every now and then is probably a very good thing.


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As old school ideas of 3D like these glasses meet Modern Technologies like the iPad, how will this affect News Coverage? The answer may be 105 years old.

Caught an interesting article in the Scientific American magazine online today. It was about stereoscopic color pictures of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake being found by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. The pictures are now online too and most people will be able to view them as a 3D image. (If you have trouble doing this, it may be a sign of a vision problem, see me or your optometrist for an exam and more info).

Can making news images from around the world 'more real' inspire us to reach out and help more?

When I sat back from the computer, relaxed my eyes and viewed these images, I was amazed by the impact it had on me. All of the sudden, I was there on the scene, witnessing the heaps of debris and devastation firsthand. It got me thinking, with all this talk of 3D gaming and with advances in technology like the iPad and 3D TV, will we one day be viewing photographs from magazines and news articles in 3D? I found the earthquakes affecting Japan to be heart-breaking, I can’t fathom seeing the pictures from it with my full depth perception, as if I am there myself. Perhaps, it would inspire viewers to be even more sympathetic to people who are having catastrophic misfortunes happen to them and would better motivate them to reach out to those people and places in the world. It could just make this planet feel like an even smaller place and create more of a desire for peace, understanding and assistance to those in need.

When trying to view the images on the Scientific American website, you should sit a comfortable distance from your computer or viewing screen, an arm’s length away. Then relax your eyes as if you are looking right through your screen. You will see your vision double and create a third image in between the two actual images. This third image, once properly lined up, will be in 3D.

Newer technologies like Nintendo 3DS allow you to view scenes in three dimensions without having to wear 3D glasses and without the use of seperate kromogram images that you have to force your eyes to fuse. Not everyone’s eyes may be able to comfortably do this.

Again, if you are having difficulty with 3D viewing, you may be having a problem with your eye aiming and teaming skills. See me or your local optometrist for more details, there are ways we can help!

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Vision Expo East: Where EyeCare and Fashion Eyewear Unite!

This weekend at the Jacob Javits Center I will be attending Vision Expo East and I could not be more excited! The Vision Expo is a huge event for everyone in the eyecare and fashion eyewear world. You get to learn about all of the latest technologies, browse and buy the latest frames, learn the newest trends, meet with industry reps from pharmaceutical, medical equipment sales, publications and contact lens companies, and also attend Continuing Education classes! It is something that I go to every year and that I enjoy very much!

One of the reasons why I love the Expo is there is nothing like being in New York City! After commuting into the City for four years while going to optometry school (and for two summers before optometry school while working as a research assistant there), I fell in love with it. Madly, deeply, in love with it. I know, I know, it is not for everyone, but NYC has a special place in my heart and always will.

Anyway, a couple of extra special things are happening at this year’s Vision Expo that have me really pumped up!

For one, I am attending a lecture on Nutrition by Dr. Jeffrey Anshel who is President and Founder of the Ocular Nutrition Society. As they say, “this guy really knows his stuff.” I love to learn all I can about nutrition and teaching my patients about it is one of my top priorities. Dr. Anshel is very knowledgeable and I always walk away inspired after hearing him speak. Needless to say, there will be another article on nutrition coming your way in the near future (I do have one other topic on deck beforehand that I received by request. I have almost finished my research for it and it will be coming soon, Matt).

Second, there will be celebrities at Vision Expo as there always is. They pose for pictures and give autographs but I never waited in the line to see anyone before. I would just get a brief, starstruck glimpse of them as I roamed past. This year, however, I am really beyond thrilled to get an autograph and picture with Lisa Loeb! I actually won a “Jump the Line” contest and will be cutting to the front of the line to meet her! Lisa Loeb is awesome! And this meeting is so significant to me because, back in 1994, when I was sixteen years old, I got my first pair of glasses. I remember telling the optometrist as we browsed through the walled racks, “I want ones just like Lisa Loeb has!” Who knew, that 16 years later, I would BE an optometrist and would have the chance to actually meet Lisa! It, to me, is incredible! Lisa has been doing a lot since her Number 1 hit, “Stay” came out. That is the song and video that put her on the map as a glasses fashion icon in my book! Lisa has now started her own line of glasses, Lisa Loeb Eyewear, which are tre chic and beautiful! They can be purchased online too! Check them out! I know I definitely will be trying them all on at Vision Expo East!

With that said, I will take as many pictures as I can and I will share them and my stories and experiences with you when I return.

I can hardly wait!

Cheryl G. Murphy, O.D.

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The cornea is ‘the windshield through which you see the world.’ It is composed of collagen and different layers of transparent cells on the outermost part of the eye. Sometimes things can happen to the cornea, it can become badly scarred, thinned out or cloudy due to disorders of the cornea or due to injury. This can dramatically reduce your vision or view through that once crystal clear smooth ‘windshield’ and it is in these cases that a corneal transplant is needed.

A corneal transplant is usually performed when the cornea is so scarred that even speciality contact lenses can not yield adequate vision, or if the patient’s cornea is so thinned out that a hole or perforation in the cornea, a very dangerous predicament,  is threatening to develop. Usually corneal transplant surgeries entail removing the patient’s own cornea and surgically replacing it with that of an organ donor. In this process, there was a risk that the patient’s body would reject the organ donor’s tissue with a rejection rate of 35% within 5 years (source). The recipient’s body would see the donor’s cornea as a foreign material and therefore, it would mount an immune response or attack against it. In standard corneal transplant surgeries, immunosuppressive medications must be taken for months after the surgery to help prevent this attack. It has been shown that patients who received a transplant with a biosyntetic cornea, “did not experience any rejection reaction or require long-term immune suppression (medication), which are serious side effects associated with the use of human donor tissue.” (source 1) This is according to a new study and two year on-going clinical trial organized by Dr. May Griffith (Ottawa, Canada) and Dr. Per Fagerholm (Sweden).

Dr. May Griffith and her colleagues at Ottawa Hospital Research Institute have been making biosynthetic corneas in their lab for about ten years now. She teamed up with Dr. Per Fagerholm in Sweden to try out the lab-created corneas in ten patients. They saw that over the course of two years the patient’s own new cells and nerves had grown into the implant. Tear production also returned to normal in patients who had the biosynthetic corneal transplants as well as corneal sensitivity (ability to sense touch). Over the two years, vision improved in six of the patients with glasses, two of the patients stayed the same. Contact lenses that were once intolerable, patients were now able to wear and their vision improved to that of patients who had standard corneal implants. (source 2) Also, due to the widespread shortage of available donor corneas, the waiting list for corneal transplants can be long (especially in countries other than the United States). That is what makes this breakthrough in biosynthetic or lab-created corneas so great! No donors needed!

These biosynthetic transplants were not full thickness corneal transplants as the endothelial cells of the cornea were not transplanted but Dr. Griffith says she is already working on that in order to extend the biosynthetic corneal treatment method to an even a wider range of corneal problems. There is hope for the future and science is leading the way to a clearer, brighter tomorrow worldwide. Isn’t Science grand?

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The Lions Club has helped so many visually impaired people throughout the world see again by providing them with cataract surgery, low vision exams, new glasses or even their very first pair of glasses! There are two ways you can help the Lions Club give others the gift of sight! One is donating your old glasses to them, the other is by making a monetary donation to help fund a cataract surgery, low vision exams and glasses or a new clean drinking water well!

Help someone in the world see clearly!

Just think of what it would be like to see clearly for the first time in your life! What a powerful and inspirational blessing to give someone this holiday season! (And who doesn’t have old glasses laying around??)  To watch a video explaining the Lions Club International program regarding the visually impaired click here! Happy Holidays!

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