Barry, a neuroscientist at Mount Holyoke College, was born with her eyes crossed and literally couldn't see in all three dimensions. Barry underwent several surgeries as a child, but it wasn't until she was in college that she realized she wasn't seeing in 3-D. The medical profession has believed that the visual center of the brain can't rewire itself after a critical cutoff point in a child's development, but in her 40s, with the help of optometric vision therapy, Barry showed that previously neglected neurons could be nudged back into action. The author tells a poignant story of her gradual discovery of the shapes in flowers in a vase, snowflakes falling, even the folds in coats hanging on a peg. After Barry's story was written up in the New Yorker by Oliver Sacks, she heard from many others who had successfully learned to correct their vision as adults, challenging accepted wisdom about the plasticity of the brain. Recommended for all readers who cheer stories with a triumph over seemingly insuperable odds. Photos, illus. (June)
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Though Sue originally thought her own case unique, she has since found a number of other people with strabismus and related problems who have unexpectedly achieved stereo vision through vision therapy. This is no easy accomplishment. It may require not only optical corrections (proper lenses or prisms, for example), but very intensive training and learning—in effect, learning how to align the eyes and to fuse their images, and unlearning the unconscious habit of suppressing vision which has been occurring perhaps for decades. In this way, vision therapy is directed at the whole person: it requires high motivation and self-awareness, and enormous perseverance, practice and determination, as does psychotherapy, for instance, or learning to play the piano. But it is also highly rewarding, as Sue brings out. And this ability to acquire new perceptual abilities later in life has great implications for anyone interested in neuroscience or rehabilitation, and, of course, for the millions of people who, like Sue, have been strabismic since infancy.
Sue's case, and many others, suggest that if there are even small islands of function in the visual cortex, there may be a fair chance of reactivating and expanding them in later life, even after a lapse of decades, if vision can be made optically possible. Cases like these may offer new hope for those once considered incorrigibly stereo-blind. Fixing My Gaze will offer inspiration for anyone in this situation, but it is equally a very remarkable exploration of the brain's ability to change and adapt, and an ode to the fascination and wonder of the visual world, even those parts of it which many of us take for granted.”
Eric Kandel, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine; author of In Search of Memory
“Fixing My Gaze is a magical book, at once poetic and scientific, that holds out great hope for all of us. Here Susan Barry recounts her discovery that through training she could acquire, in adulthood, the three dimensional vision she lacked in all her early years. Barry, an excellent brain scientist, illustrates through her personal experiences and the fascinating science of vision that the brain is a marvelously plastic organ that can continue to change its wiring and thereby its function throughout our adult life.”
David H. Hubel, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine; John Franklin Enders Professor of Neurobiology, Emeritus, Harvard Medical School
“It had been widely thought that an adult, cross-eyed since infancy, could never acquire stereovision, but to everyone’s surprise Barry succeeded. In Fixing My Gaze, she describes how wonderful it was to have, step-by-step, this new 3-D world revealed to her. And as a neurobiologist she is able to discuss the science as an expert, in simple language."
Brock and Fernette Eide, authors of The Mislabeled Child
“Beautifully written, deeply informative, and profoundly inspiring…Fixing My Gaze will appeal to anyone interested in the beauty of the nervous system, and should be required reading for every person involved with the education, behavior, and development of children.”
Michael Chorost, author of Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human
“Fascinating and moving....Barry shows us that with healthy eyes and the simplest of tools, we can see the world in an entirely new way. Fixing My Gaze made me wonder: What new things could any of us see, if only someone told us it was possible?”
Dr. Leonard J. Press, Optometric Director, The Vision & Learning Center
“Barry’s story is seemingly about stereovision, but the depth she probes goes well beyond three dimensions. No one reading her fascinating account will ever look at vision the same way again.”
Richard L. Gregory, editor of The Oxford Companion to the Mind
“It is rare to gain stereoscopic vision if born without it, but Susan Barry reveals that it happened to her. Fixing My Gaze is the engaging story of her unusual adventure.”
Nigel Daw, Professor Emeritus of Ophthalmology and Neuroscience, Yale University; author of Visual Development
“Magnificent...It is not yet clear what percentage of patients may be like Barry, but Fixing My Gaze will encourage eye care practitioners to go ahead and find out, with definite benefits to their patients. Moreover, the book is fascinating reading.”
“Barry tells a poignant story of her gradual discovery of the shapes in flowers in a vase, snowflakes falling, even the folds in coats hanging on a peg…. Recommended for all readers who cheer stories with a triumph over seemingly insuperable odds.”
“Barry’s buoyant journey into stereovision is an eye-popping ride.”
“An exemplary and informative testimony to the probably lifelong plasticity of the brain.”
“Barry’s transformation captures the sometimes-indescribable nature of perception…. Her tour of the science behind her experience underlines the amazing precision of our senses – and how easily we can take them for granted.”
“A testament both to human physiology and spirit that permits someone to live with – and then change – a uniquely altered view of the world…. This book opens up the possibility that people can change their physical limitations, and that it is never too late to try.”
Optometry & Vision Development
“This book is a marvelous ode to what can be accomplished when doctor and patient encourage one another to aim higher and further.”
New England Journal of Medicine
“One axis of [Barry’s] book is a graceful and grateful appreciation of a newly acquired ‘ability to see the volume of space between objects and to see each object as occupying its own space’ – revelations that allowed her to live ‘among’ and ‘in’ the things of this world and gave her first movements of snow falling, trees branching, and a faucet arcing out of the sink…. The book’s main contribution, however, is exposing the wrong-headed dogma that acuity and binocular vision can be restored only during a critical developmental period.”
Times Higher Education Supplement
“The book is a joy to read.”
Optometry and Vision Science
“Fixing My Gaze provides a fascinating, informative, and beautifully written account of [Barry’s] acquisition of stereopsis after vision therapy at the age of 48 years…. Barry’s insights about her own vision provide wonderful insights into what it means to not have stereopsis, and the profound, life-changing effect of acquiring it.”
“In Fixing My Gaze, neuroscientist Susan Barry explains for the rest of us in fascinating detail just what a truly and completely ‘flat’ world is like to live in for 48 years.”
Although I am still suffering from amblyopia, this book has given me hope that one day I will see in stereo.Published 24 days ago by Sean
...it's neuroplastic after all! Or so it seems. The author, herself a neuroscientist, spent the better part of her lifetime deprived of full sight (at least, of sightedness in... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Librum
An incredible book! Destroys the idea that if you don't see in 3-D as a child, you'll never see in 3-D for the rest of your life. Well written and engaging. Highly recommended!Published 6 months ago by J. D. W.
Wish all eye doctors had read this book. Helped me understand what my kiddo is going through and gave me a solid base of info to work off of when talking to my doc.Published 7 months ago by K. Ott
Excellent book. Well written. Susan's story is amazing and she does a great job at explaining eye issues. Read morePublished 8 months ago by alaska65
I wish this book had been written twenty-one years ago when we first realized our daughter had strabismus. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Jennifer K.