Joel Hunter, MD Refractive Surgeon, Hunter Vision Updated 02/22/21 11:00 AM
I used to think the answer to this question was a simple “no.” Turns out it’s more nuanced than that.The answer is a complicated “yes.” That’s because there are two parts to vision: eyes and brain. The eyes, except for rare circumstances, keep the same prescription throughout adulthood (although changes in the lens can alter that, usually for the worse). The brain, though, can always improve. That is also true for the part of our brain that processes vision.
The first time I heard about this was when I was in residency. If you’re an eye doctor, you automatically get these huge magazines every week in the mail named “Ophthalmology Times” and “Eye Surgery News.” They’re about the width of a normal magazine and twice as tall. I don’t know why they’re gigantic, or who signed me up for them. It’s mysterious. But anyway, that’s where I first heard about brain training to improve vision.
More specifically, I heard about Revital Vision for the first time. This program improved people’s contrast sensitivity by 100%. It was able to improve people’s vision on an eye chart — for example, from 20/25 to 20/20. More amazingly, it was able to improve the vision of adults with amblyopia (aka a “lazy” eye). The reason that last one is so amazing is because it’s always been a textbook fact that you can’t really improve amblyopia after about age 9.
My first thought was, “they should really do a better job vetting these articles before they print them in these giant magazines.” I didn’t really think about it much more all the way until my fellowship several years later. It was there that I learned the science behind the program, the genius of the people involved, and the true, verifiable nature of the results.
I don’t know if I’d call Revital Vision miraculous, but it feels that way. A miracle seems like it should involve breaking the laws of nature. Revital Vision just uses the natural features of our brain to achieve a result. It rewires (via new synaptic connections) our visual cortex to improve its function and therefore improve vision.
If you learn French, what’s happening in the brain? We’re changing it at a cellular level to hold and process new information in a way that it couldn’t before. Same with any new endeavor. As it turns out, that same process is available to our visual cortex. As we grow from infant to child, this happens naturally. The same way we don’t remember learning to talk, we don’t remember learning to see. However, we can learn to do either one of those better with specific training in adulthood.
That’s not big news when it comes to learning a new language. All of us have bought and then lost a new language training program at some point. But for vision, the idea that we can actually improve without changing our glasses or our eyes is flat out amazing. It’s complicated how it works — as is everything with the brain — but the answer to this question is “yes.”