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Sensory Tools: Vision (Part 2)

Sensory Tools: Vision (Part 2)

By Shane Sauer

In my last blog, we opened up Your Brain’s Toolbox and started learning how to use your vision tools.  In this blog, we’ll continue building a quick reference guide for your eyes.  As a quick summary, there are a few skills you should have with your eyes:

  1. Focus on an object
  2. Stabilize on a fixed point
  3. Follow a moving object
  4. Track and object with changing distance

Fortunately, these skills are muscularly controlled, which means you can train them and improve them! Unfortunately, like any muscle, they become untrained when not used.  So, let’s pick up where we left off and learn how to use our eyes.

Eye Skill #3: Follow

Your eyes follow and object by moving in two ways, smooth pursuits or saccades.  If you’re like everyone and enjoy people watching, you’ve done a smooth pursuit.  However, you rarely practice this is any direction other than side to side and you probably choose to turn your head instead of move your eyes (unless you’re trying not to be noticed).

A saccade is your eye's ability to follow and object by jumping ahead. It allows you to follow objects that are much faster than what you can follow with a pursuit; like a tennis ball, a fly or Usian Bolt.  If you read, then have some experience with this movement horizontally because your eyes jump from word to word and line to line.  However, these are small jumps and lack movement in different directions.

A simple way to practice a smooth pursuit is to draw a circle in front of you with your thumb and follow it with your eyes. Go slow enough so that you can stay focused and be careful not to turn your head. For saccades, hold your thumbs out to either side. Now, jump your eyes back and forth between your thumbs.  Now, try this up and down and on the diagonals, too. You'll likely find those to be much harder.

Eye Skill #4: Track

When your eyes track an object moving toward you or away from you, it is called vergence.  Your eye muscles have to do a lot of work for this to happen.  If you don’t like making your eyes cross or if you have always struggled to catch a ball, there is a good chance it's because your eyes need work on convergence (tracking toward).  If “magic eye” pictures never seem work for you, divergence (tracking away) could need to be strengthened.  Personally, I could never figure out the “magic eye” until I started practicing divergence. Now, they come easily (and they're so cool!)

One drill can train both types of vergence. Hold your thumb up at arm's length in front of your nose and look at the nail. Slowly move your thumb in (convergence) until it doubles (not just blurring), watching it the whole way. Then move it back out again (divergence) following it the whole way.

I hope that by reading these two blogs you can start to see why vision training is becoming so popular.  In addition, don’t forget about how important vision can be to the neurology of pain and performance.  Next time, we’ll be opening up a new drawer in Your Brain’s Toolbox to learn about your balance system.

Check out this video that exapnds on and takes a deeper look at the information presented in this blog.
You can find also find other videos from MATRIX Personalized Fitness on YouTube.