What is Neuro-Developmental Optometry?
Vision is more than being able to see small detail on a chart. When our eyes are open, our vision accounts for two-thirds of the electrical activity in the brain (a full 2 billion of the 3 billion neurons firing every second), and that over half the brain deals with vision in some way. Vision provides more information than all the other senses combined and is the dominant way human beings process, organise and interact with the world.
The amazing thing about the human brain is neuro-plasticity. The visual process is learnt in early childhood and continues to develop throughout our lives. Science has shown neuro-plasticity continues through-out life but many eye doctors considered the visual system unable to improve after age 7. Recent research such as the PEDIG trials have confirmed what developmental Optometrists have long found clinically, which is the visual system has the potential to improve even after age 7.
Developmental Optometrists use a combination of carefully prescribed lenses, prisms, filters and or tints to improve visual efficiency. We can also help improve the visual system through Optometric vision therapy. Vision is closely integrated with our other senses, movement, memory and speech so improving visual skills can help in a range of conditions such as those found in dyslexia, dyspraxia, traumatic brain injury as well as strabismus and lazy eye.
It takes an average of 3 years of post-graduate study to become accredited by the British Association of Behavioural Optometry and my colleagues and I all agree, that is just the start of learning about how to help our patients. Vision therapy is much more common in the USA and Australia and is rapidly expanding in parts of Europe such as in Spain.
There is increasing evidence about the benefits of Vision Therapy in such as the CITT study which found that over three-quarters of children improved with a 12 week course of treatment for convergence insufficiency. More research is on-going especially in the areas of brain injury and learning such as the 8 million dollar NIH CITT-ART study into the links between convergence insufficiency and attention/reading.