A Modern Day Stratton
If you’ve never heard of George M. Stratton, allow me to familiarize you with him. Stratton was a psychologist who is well known for his studies whereby he used special glasses to invert the world from up to down, and from right to left. Although his initial symptoms were dizziness, nausea, and headaches, he found that after a few days of adjustment, his brain actually adapted and things seemed normal. I found this synopsis of his experiment on Wikipedia:
Stratton went on to become a first-generation experimentalist in psychology. Wundt’s lab in Leipzig, with experimental programs bringing together the fields of evolutionary biology, sensory physiology and nervous-system studies, was a part of the career of most of the first generation. It was the exposure there, added to the graduate work at Yale, that influenced Stratton into becoming a psychologist. It was there that he started his binocular vision experiments as well. In these experiments, he found himself adapting to the new perception of the environment over a few days, after inverting the images his eyes saw on a regular basis. For this, he wore a set of glasses inverting images both upside-down and left-right. Stratton wore these glasses over his right eye and covered the left with a patch during the day, and slept blindfolded at night. Initial movement was clumsy, but adjusting to the new environment took only a few days. Stratton tried variations of the experiment over the next few years. First he wore the glasses for eight days, back at Berkeley. The first day he was nauseated and the inverted landscape felt unreal, but by the second day just his own body position seemed strange, and by day seven, things felt normal. A sense of strangeness returned when the glasses were taken out though the world looked straight side up, and he found himself reaching out with the right hand when he should have used the left, and the other way around. Then he tried the experiment outdoors. He also tried another experiment disrupting the mental link between touch and sight. There he wore a set of mirrors attached to a harness … allowing, and forcing, him to see his body from above. He found the senses adapted in a similar way over three days. His interpretation was that we build up an association between sight and touch by associational learning over a period of time. During certain periods, the disconnect between vision and touch made him feel as if his body was not where his touch and proprioceptive feeling told him it was. This out-of-body experience, caused by an altered but normal sensory perception, vanished when he attended to the issue critically, focusing on the disconnect.
Find the entire history here.
As a modern day testament to Stratton’s findings, this video, which recently came to my attention, demonstrates just how elastic, adaptive, and flexible our brains can be. Although this may not seem to be overtly related to Vision Therapy, it clearly demonstrates the elasticity involved in retraining the brain, and in that way, is very connected to the “how and why” Vision Therapy is so effective.
The video runs close to 8 minutes, but is well worth the watch. Enjoy!