Binocular Vision Allows Animals To ‘See Through’ The Clutter In The World

The advantage of using two eyes to see the world around us has long been associated solely with our capacity to see in 3-D. Now, a new study from a scientist at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has uncovered a truly eye-opening advantage to binocular vision: our ability to see through things.

Most animals – fish, insects, reptiles, birds, rabbits, and horses, for example – exist in non-cluttered environments like fields or plains, and they have eyes located on either side of their head. These sideways-facing eyes allow an animal to see in front of and behind itself, an ability also known as panoramic vision.

Humans and other large mammals – primates and large carnivores like tigers, for example – exist in cluttered environments like forests or jungles, and their eyes have evolved to point in the same direction. While animals with forward-facing eyes lose the ability to see what’s behind them, they gain X-ray vision, according to Mark Changizi, assistant professor of cognitive science at Rensselaer, who says eyes facing the same direction have been selected for maximizing our ability to see in leafy environments like forests.

All animals have a binocular region – parts of the world that both eyes can see simultaneously – which allows for X-ray vision and grows as eyes become more forward facing.

Demonstrating our X-ray ability is fairly simple: hold a pen vertically and look at something far beyond it. If you first close one eye, and then the other, you’ll see that in each case the pen blocks your view. If you open both eyes, however, you can see through the pen to the world behind it.

To demonstrate how our eyes allow us to see through clutter, hold up all of your fingers in random directions, and note how much of the world you can see beyond them when only one eye is open compared to both. You miss out on a lot with only one eye open, but can see nearly everything behind the clutter with both.

“Our binocular region is a kind of ‘spotlight’ shining through the clutter, allowing us to visually sweep out a cluttered region to recognize the objects beyond it,” says Changizi, who is principal investigator on the project. “As long as the separation between our eyes is wider than the width of the objects causing clutter – as is the case with our fingers, or would be the case with the leaves in the forest – then we can tend to see through it.”

To identify which animals have this impressive power, Changizi studied 319 species across 17 mammalian orders and discovered that eye position depends on two variables: the clutter, or lack thereof in an animal’s environment, and the animal’s body size relative to the objects creating the clutter.

Changizi discovered that animals in non-cluttered environments – which he described as either “non-leafy surroundings, or surroundings where the cluttering objects are bigger in size than the separation between the animal’s eyes” (think a tiny mouse trying to see through 6-inch wide leaves in the forest) – tended to have sideways-facing eyes.

“Animals outside of leafy environments do not have to deal with clutter no matter how big or small they are, so there is never any X-ray advantage to forward-facing eyes for them,” says Changizi. “Because binocular vision does not help them see any better than monocular vision, they are able to survey a much greater region with sideways-facing eyes.”

However, in cluttered environments – which Changizi defined as leafy surroundings where the cluttering objects are smaller than the separation between an animal’s eyes – animals tend to have a wide field of binocular vision, and thus forward-facing eyes, in order to see past leaf walls.

“This X-ray vision makes it possible for animals with forward-facing eyes to visually survey a much greater region around themselves than sideways-facing eyes would allow,” says Changizi. “Additionally, the larger the animal in a cluttered environment, the more forward facing its eyes will be to allow for the greatest X-ray vision possible, in order to aid in hunting, running from predators, and maneuvering through dense forest or jungle.”

Changizi says human eyes have evolved to be forward facing, but that we now live in a non-cluttered environment where we might actually benefit more from sideways-facing eyes.

“In today’s world, humans have more in common visually with tiny mice in a forest than with a large animal in the jungle. We aren’t faced with a great deal of small clutter, and the things that do clutter our visual field – cars and skyscrapers – are much wider than the separation between our eyes, so we can’t use our X-ray power to see through them,” Changizi says. “If we froze ourselves today and woke up a million years from now, it’s possible that it might be difficult for us to look the new human population in the eyes, because by then they might be facing sideways.”

Changizi’s research was completed in collaboration with Shinsuke Shimojo at the California Institute of Technology, and is published online in the Journal of Theoretical Biology. It was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Changizi’s X-ray vision research, along with his research about our future-seeing powers, color telepathy, and eye computation abilities, will appear in his book The Vision Revolution (BenBella Books), due out in stores this spring.

About Rensselaer

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is the nation’s oldest technological university. The university offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in engineering, the sciences, information technology, architecture, management, and the humanities and social sciences. Institute programs serve undergraduates, graduate students, and working professionals around the world. Rensselaer faculty are known for pre-eminence in research conducted in a wide range of fields, with particular emphasis in biotechnology, nanotechnology, information technology, and the media arts and technology. The Institute is well known for its success in the transfer of technology from the laboratory to the marketplace so that new discoveries and inventions benefit human life, protect the environment, and strengthen economic development.

Source: Amber Cleveland

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Leave Fireworks To The Professionals This Fourth Of July

Each Fourth of July, thousands of people are injured from using consumer fireworks. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 9,000 fireworks-related injuries happen each year. Of these, nearly half are head-related injuries with nearly 30 percent of these injuries to the eyes. One-fourth of fireworks eye injuries result in permanent vision loss or blindness.

July is Fireworks Eye Safety Awareness Month, and through its EyeSmart™ campaign the American Academy of Ophthalmology wants to remind consumers to leave fireworks to professionals. “Too many Fourth of July celebrations are ruined because a child has to be rushed to the emergency room after a fireworks accident,” said Marguerite McDonald, MD, a clinical correspondent for the Academy. “Potentially blinding injuries can be avoided if families attend a professional public fireworks display instead of putting on a home fireworks display.”

Children are the most common victims of firework accidents, with those fifteen years old or younger accounting for half of all fireworks eye injuries in the United States. For children under the age of five, seemingly innocent sparklers account for one-third of all fireworks injuries. Sparklers can burn at nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to cause a third-degree burn.

“Among the most serious injuries are abrupt trauma to the eye from bottle rockets,” according to Dr. McDonald. The rockets fly erratically, often injuring bystanders. Injuries from bottle rockets can include eye lid lacerations, corneal abrasions, traumatic cataract , retinal detachment, optic nerve damage, rupture of the eyeball, eye muscle damage, and complete blindness.

For a safe and healthy Independence Day celebration, the Academy urges observance of the following tips:

– Never let children play with fireworks of any type.
– View fireworks from a safe distance: at least 500 feet away, or up to a quarter of a mile for best viewing.
– Respect safety barriers set up to allow pyrotechnicians to do their jobs safely.
– Leave the lighting of fireworks to trained professionals.
– Follow directives given by event ushers or public safety personnel.
– If you find unexploded fireworks remains, do not touch them. Immediately contact your local fire or police departments.
– If you get an eye injury from fireworks, seek medical help immediately.

Find Eye M.D.s in your area or ask an Eye M.D. a question by visiting GetEyeSmart. Consumers can submit questions about eye health to an ophthalmologist at geteyesmart/eyesmart/ask/

American Academy of Ophthalmology

4-Decade Search Ended By Discovery Of Retinal Cell Type

A research team combining high-energy physicists from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and neuroscientists from the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif., has discovered a type of retinal cell that may help monkeys, apes, and humans see motion. The team’s work appears in the October 10 issue of Journal of Neuroscience.

The cell type has very similar properties to so-called Y retinal ganglion cells, which were first described in cats in 1966. Upon the Y-cell’s discovery, scientists began a decades-long search for its counterpart in primates. The UCSC-Salk Institute team named the new cell type the upsilon cell, after the Greek uppercase letter written as “Y.”

This week’s discovery puts scientists one step closer to understanding how primates transform the chaos of light bombarding their eyes into a clear, steady, color picture of the world around them.

“This has been a fantastic journey through high-energy physics, neurobiology, technology, and human health,” said senior author Alan Litke, adjunct professor of physics at UCSC’s Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics (SCIPP). “We started out developing instruments to look for fundamental particles such as the top quark and the Higgs boson. Then we realized we could apply some of those technological concepts to studying neural systems. Now we are using the new technology for experiments that will help guide the design of future retinal prosthetic devices.”

The retina is the paper-thin coating on the back of the eye that turns light into coded messages headed to the brain. The first step in the process is handled by rod and cone cells that transform arriving photons of light into electrical signals. Another three cell layers process those signals and then pass them on to ganglion cells like the Y and upsilon, which are middlemen that collate the signals and send them up the optic nerve to the brain. The eye has only about one retinal ganglion cell for every 100 rod and cone cells. Although biologists have identified at least 22 distinct types of primate retinal ganglion cells, the functions of only about a half-dozen of them are known.

“People have looked at cell morphology, but that can’t tell us in any detail how the cell responds to light,” Litke said. “If we’re interested in how the retina is processing visual information, we really want to focus a movie on it and see what it reacts to–to find out if it’s seeing color, responding to motion, or whatever it might be doing.”

The upsilon cells went undetected for so long, Litke suggested, mainly because they are only a tiny fraction of all the ganglion cells. This small number makes the cells very difficult to detect with traditional physiological techniques, which typically monitor only one cell or a tiny patch of retina at any one time.

So Litke and his colleagues developed a new detection system inspired by their research detecting particles in high-energy-physics collisions. The device crammed 512 electrodes into an area of 1.7 square millimeters (about the size of a pinhead). Each of the team’s experiments, conducted in the Salk Institute lab of neurobiologist E. J. Chichilnisky, recorded the electrical activity of more than 250 cells simultaneously, five to 10 of which were upsilon cells.

“The high density and large number of the electrodes gave us the ability to pick out individual neurons and at the same time examine a whole collection of cells,” Litke said. “If you had only a few electrodes, you might detect a single cell with unusual properties, but you wouldn’t know what to do with it–it might just be a sick cell. Now we can identify a significant number of these cells in a single preparation, all with the same properties. That gives us confidence in our results.”

To figure out how the upsilon cells handle information, the researchers projected simple movies through a microscope lens and onto a patch of retina. As rod and cone cells picked up the images, they sent electrical signals to a wide variety of retinal nerve cells. After picking up the signals on the electrode array, SCIPP postgraduate researcher Dumitru Petrusca matched them with the movie, allowing him to map out the light-sensitive regions of each cell. The team found that the collection of upsilon cells forms a mosaic across the retina, with nearly continuous coverage and very little overlap.

The sensitive regions of upsilon cells measured 300 to 500 microns across, considerably larger than most other retinal ganglion cells (a micron is one-millionth of a meter; 300 microns is about three times the width of a human hair). Upsilon cells showed particular sensitivity to oscillating fields of stripes, the sort of input they might receive when a textured surface moves across their field of view.

Together, these qualities suggest an ability to sense motion. Amid a flood of information heading to the brain, sensitivity to changing patterns would emphasize the parts of the picture that are moving. And the large size of the cell’s sensitive region would be better suited to sensing motion than providing pinpoint resolution on a stationary object.

If the upsilon cells prove to be connected to the brain the way cat Y-cells are, then they likely feed their information to two separate processing centers. One, called the lateral geniculate nucleus, is a waystation to the visual cortex. The other, the superior colliculus, helps turn the eyes and the head toward a stimulus. Litke said this would strengthen the suggestion that the upsilon cells help detect motion.

“You see something coming in your peripheral vision, and you turn your head because maybe it’s a lion coming to attack you,” he said.

With their 512-electrode array, Litke and his colleagues are planning to keep on filling in the blanks of other unknowns. “We’re working on many other cell types,” Litke said. “This is just the tip of the iceberg.”

In addition to Litke, Petrusca, and Chichilnisky, the paper’s authors include graduate student Matthew Grivich and assistant researcher Alexander Sher of SCIPP and Greg Field, Jeffrey Gauthier, Martin Greschner, and Jonathon Shlens of the Salk Institute. Critical contributions to the technology development were made by SCIPP researchers Serguei Kachiguine and Alex Grillo, and by Wladyslaw Dabrowski and his integrated circuit design team at the AGH University of Science and Technology in Krakow, Poland.

This research was funded by the National Science Foundation, McKnight Foundation, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, National Eye Institute, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Helen Hay Whitney Foundation, National Institutes of Health, German Academic Exchange Service, and La Jolla Interfaces in Science.

Hugh Powell
Tim Stephens

Source: Hugh Powell

University of California – Santa Cruz

A Clearer Picture Of Cloudy Eyes

A new study appearing online March 21 in JBC provides more insight into cataracts, the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in the elderly, finding that small pieces of a perfectly normal protein become toxic during the aging process.

A cataract results from deterioration in the highly ordered assembly of crystallin proteins in the eye lens. Normally, the ordered structure keeps lenses clear and able to efficiently transmit light. However, crystallins gradually break down during aging, causing the lens to become opaque and scatter light instead. Besides age, other risk factors such as diabetes, ultraviolet radiation, or drugs like corticosteroids can also contribute to cataracts.

Like cataracts themselves, the exact mechanisms governing their formation are cloudy, but Krishna Sharma and colleagues found that tiny bits of crystallin greatly contribute to this process.

They compared a range of human donor lenses and found that aged and cataract lenses accumulated about four times as many short (~10-20 amino acids) crystallin fragments compared to young lenses. These fragments could readily bind full-length crystallins, which disrupted their natural shape and organization and caused them to become insoluble.

Ironically, these tiny fragments are a by-product of the eye’s efforts to stay healthy; when a crystallin becomes damaged, other proteins chew it up to remove it; but occasionally the process is incomplete, leaving tiny pieces that can cause greater damage.

American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (c)
9650 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20814-3996
United States

Potential Cause Of Blindness Uncovered

Blindness is prevalent amongst the aging. It affects one in 50 people over 50 and one in five people over 85. The exact cause is unknown, but risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure and having relatives with the condition.

Announced this week, researchers in the United Kingdom have uncovered a probable cause. An enzyme known as DICER1, actually stops functioning, resulting in the handicap.

Professor Jayakrishna Ambati, from the University of Kentucky states:

“This work opens many new doors of research. First, we need to identify various classes of molecules that can either increase DICER1 levels or block Alu RNA so that these can be evaluated in clinical trials. Second, we need to understand more about the biological processes that lead to reduction in DICER1 levels and the precise source of the Alu RNA transcripts.”

This gene encodes a protein possessing an RNA helicase motif containing a DEXH box in its amino terminus and an RNA motif in the carboxy terminus. The encoded protein functions as a ribonuclease and is required by the RNA interference and microRNA (a.k.a. small temporal RNA) pathways to produce the active small RNA component that represses gene expression. Two transcript variants encoding the same protein have been identified for this gene.

The inner layer of the eye is the retina, which contains nerves that communicate sight; behind the retina is the choroid, which contains the blood supply to the macula (the central part of the retina). In the dry (nonexudative) form, cellular debris called drusen accumulate between the retina and the choroid, and the retina can become detached. In the wet (exudative) form, which is more severe, blood vessels grow up from the choroid behind the retina, and the retina can also become detached. It can be treated with laser coagulation, and with medication that stops and sometimes reverses the growth of blood vessels.

As the disease progresses, central vision declines making reading, driving and recognizing people difficult.

It has been discovered that the enzyme DICER1 was less active in the retina of people with the more common “dry form” of the illness and when they turned off the gene which makes the enzyme in mice, then the animal’s retina cells were damaged. It was then discovered that DICER1 is necessary for destroying small pieces of genetic material called Alu RNA.

Without DICER1, the Alu RNA accumulates with toxic consequences leading to the death of the retina.

Professor Ian Grierson, school of clinical sciences at the University of Liverpool, continues:

“This is a great piece of science which provides another jigsaw piece which we need to put together with other findings. It was done in an animal model which is a long way from the patient, the breakthrough is we’ve got another player.”

Professor Mike Cheetham, head of molecular and cellular neuroscience at UCL, finalizes:
“It’s a potentially very important breakthrough which gives insight into this dry form of the disease. It could provide new pathways to therapy, but the findings need to be validated by other researchers.”

Various scales have been developed to describe the extent of vision loss and define blindness. Total blindness is the complete lack of form and visual light perception and is clinically recorded as NLP, an abbreviation for “no light perception.” Blindness is frequently used to describe severe visual impairment with residual vision. Those described as having only light perception have no more sight than the ability to tell light from dark and the general direction of a light source.

Source: Nature lnternational Jounal of Science

Sy Kraft, B.A.

Our Brain’s Sense Centers Are Continuously Active But In The Absence Of A Stimulus Their Electrical Activity Remains In ‘Screen Saver’ Mode

Even when our eyes are closed, the visual centers in our brain are humming with activity. Weizmann Institute scientists and others have shown in the last few years that the magnitude of sense-related activity in a brain that’s disengaged from seeing, touching, etc., is quite similar to that of one exposed to a stimulus. New research at the Institute has now revealed details of that activity, explaining why, even though our sense centers are working, we don’t experience sights or sounds when there’s nothing coming in through our sensory organs.

The previous studies of Prof. Rafael Malach and research student Yuval Nir of the Neurobiology Department used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure brain activity in active and resting states. But fMRI is an indirect measurement of brain activity; it can’t catch the nuances of the pulses of electricity that characterize neuron activity.

Together with Prof. Itzhak Fried of the University of California at Los Angeles and a team at the EEG unit of the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, the researchers found a unique source of direct measurement of electrical activity in the brain: data collected from epilepsy patients who underwent extensive testing, including measurement of neuronal pulses in various parts of their brain, in the course of diagnosis and treatment.

An analysis of this data showed conclusively that electrical activity does, indeed, take place even in the absence of stimuli. But the nature of the electrical activity differs if a person is experiencing a sensory event or undergoing its absence. In results that appeared recently in Nature Neuroscience, the scientists showed that during rest, brain activity consists of extremely slow fluctuations, as opposed to the short, quick bursts that typify a response associated with a sensory percept. This difference appears to be the reason we don’t experience hallucinations or hear voices that aren’t there during rest. The resting oscillations appear to be strongest when we sense nothing at all – during dream-free sleep.

The slow fluctuation pattern can be compared to a computer screen-saver. Though its function is still unclear, the researchers have a number of hypotheses. One possibility is that neurons, like certain philosophers, must ‘think’ in order to be. Survival, therefore, is dependant on a constant state of activity. Another suggestion is that the minimal level of activity enables a quick start when a stimulus eventually presents itself, something like a getaway car with the engine running. Nir: ‘In the old approach, the senses are ‘turned on’ by the switch of an outside stimulus. This is giving way to a new paradigm in which the brain is constantly active, and stimuli change and shape that activity.’

Malach: ‘The use of clinical data enabled us to solve a riddle of basic science in a way that would have been impossible with conventional methods. These findings could, in the future, become the basis of advanced diagnostic techniques.’ Such techniques might not necessarily require the cooperation of the patient, allowing them to be used, for instance on people in a coma or on young children.

Prof. Rafael Malach’s research is supported by the Nella and Leon Benoziyo Center for Neurological Diseases; the Carl and Micaela Einhorn-Dominic Brain Research Institute; Ms. Vera Benedek, Israel; Benjamin and Seema Pulier Charitable Foundation, Inc.; and Ms. Mary Helen Rowen, New York, NY. Prof. Malach is the incumbent of the Barbara and Morris Levinson Professorial Chair in Brain Research.

For the scientific paper, please see: nature/neuro/journal/v11/n9/full/nn.2177.html

The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, is one of the world’s top-ranking multidisciplinary research institutions. Noted for its wide-ranging exploration of the natural and exact sciences, the Institute is home to 2,600 scientists, students, technicians and supporting staff. Institute research efforts include the search for new ways of fighting disease and hunger, examining leading questions in mathematics and computer science, probing the physics of matter and the universe, creating novel materials and developing new strategies for protecting the environment.

Source: Yivsam Azgad

Weizmann Institute of Science

Glaucoma Diagnosis May Be Mistaken In Some Younger Chinese People

Many young and middle-aged people of Chinese ancestry told they are at risk of going blind from glaucoma may be getting incorrect information, say researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

After following a cluster of 16 such patients for seven years and observing more than 100 others, the researchers have concluded that there’s a new syndrome occurring in the Chinese population, and it may be less likely to lead to severe vision loss or blindness than typical glaucoma. Their results are published in the March issue of Ophthalmology.

Glaucoma is a condition that occurs from accumulating damage to cells whose fibers make up the optic nerve, which transmits information from the eye to the brain. This disease is the second-leading cause of blindness worldwide, affecting one in 200 people over the age of 50, but is less common in younger people.

So when Kuldev Singh, MD, MPH, professor of ophthalmology, began seeing a number of young Chinese males 15 years ago who had been diagnosed with glaucoma, he became suspicious that perhaps they had another syndrome.

“I started to see a lot of Chinese men with advanced glaucoma at a young age,” said Singh. “Many of them were terrified. Most were otherwise healthy and active and thus were surprised that they had this disease.”

Singh noticed that not only were these patients young Chinese males, but almost all were nearsighted and many had normal eye pressure. Most glaucoma patients have high eye pressure, which is thought to lead to optic nerve damage. To see so many similar patients including many with normal pressure was unusual.

“It would be equivalent to someone having a heart attack when they have normal cholesterol,” he said.

The combination of similarities among the patients led Singh to question whether these individuals, including some as young as 25, had glaucoma rather than another syndrome. So instead of the normal, aggressive course of treatment for young glaucoma patients – including surgery – Singh kept most of the patients on low doses of pressure-lowering eye drops as a precaution. As he suspected, none of the patients progressed toward blindness during the course of the study.

Singh began sharing his experience with doctors around the world and found he was not the only one with patients with these symptoms. Frequently, he said, a doctor in an online forum would describe a puzzling case of a young man with unexplained glaucoma. Singh would respond, “Is he nearsighted and is he Chinese?” and the doctor would respond, “How did you know?”

Singh said he thinks that optic nerve damage in these patients is caused by their nearsightedness, and that others have reported that nearsightedness is increasing in the Chinese population.

Nearsightedness is caused by a lengthening of the eye, and Singh and colleagues suggested in the paper that stretching the eye can damage the optic nerve. Since nearsightedness rarely gets worse in people after their 30s, the optic nerve damage may ultimately slow or stabilize in such patients.

“Some might say that by classic definitions, all of these patients have glaucoma,” said Singh, because they meet the optic nerve damage criteria for the disease. But a second criterion for glaucoma is that it leads to progressive vision loss, especially if not adequately treated.

The cluster of patients did not appear to be headed for blindness over the seven years they were followed. But Singh calls the findings preliminary, and said further studies are needed. “If they don’t appear to be progressing toward blindness right now,” he said, “they shouldn’t be treated as if they have a blinding condition, especially since surgery is associated with significant risks.”

Singh hopes his paper acts as a warning to doctors to look closely at this population when diagnosing glaucoma, so they won’t rush patients to surgery when it’s not needed. “I would say tread gently with that population,” he noted.

In addition to the cluster of young Chinese men mentioned in the paper, Singh has also observed this condition in Chinese women. To determine exactly how prevalent this condition is, Singh and colleagues are now surveying young individuals of Chinese ancestry in the Stanford community. While it is too early to make definitive conclusions regarding this study, the group has preliminarily found a surprisingly high prevalence of optic nerve damage. “Our suspicion is that this is an epidemic,” he said. But only time will tell whether these individuals have glaucoma.

Singh hopes, eventually, to explain why this condition appears more often in people of Chinese ancestry relative to other populations, and whether there is a gender difference. For now, he wonders whether the syndrome is related to reports from other researchers of a recent surge in nearsightedness among the Chinese.

“The next step is to try to learn more about the natural history and genetics of this condition,” said Singh, “and see whether there are subsets of the population more prone to it.”

Co-authors on the study included Stanford ophthalmology residents Amish Doshi, MD, and Lorianna Lombardi, MD, as well as former Stanford residents Ken Kreidl, MD, and Douglas Sakamoto, MD.

Stanford University Medical Center integrates research, medical education and patient care at its three institutions – Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Hospital & Clinics and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. For more information, please visit the Web site of the medical center’s Office of Communication & Public Affairs at

Contact: Donna Alvarado

Stanford University Medical Center

Transitions Optical Brings Vision And Sports Performance Into Focus Through Dynamic Spectator Experience At The Barclays

Building upon its partnership with the PGA TOUR®, Transitions Optical, Inc. announced the activation of several on-site experiences aimed at educating both players and spectators about the need for healthy vision during The Barclays this week at The Ridgewood Country Club.

The “Live Your Vision” experience located within Spectator Village along the 17th Fairway is an interactive area for spectators of all ages that demonstrates the connection between healthy, quality sight and sports performance as well as the role vision plays as part of overall health and wellness. Spectators will have the opportunity to interact one-on-one with members of Kenny Perry’s coaching team, including Matt Killen, the TOUR’s youngest swing coach; Dr. Larry Lampert, sports/vision expert and Tyler Parsons, certified kinesiologist and golf fitness specialist.

“From the beginning, Transitions Optical has made it clear that its intention was to be a committed partner as both title sponsor of the Transitions Championship and the Official Eyewear of the PGA TOUR,” said Rob Ohno, senior vice president of corporate marketing, PGA TOUR. “As you can see at The Barclays, Transitions continues to deliver on this commitment by offering a dynamic spectator experience and outreach effort that reinforces the importance of healthy, quality sight and the Transitions brand in a relevant and engaging way — not only for golfers and spectators, but for all who value their vision. Transitions has done a tremendous job of distinguishing its brand and continues to gain attention among the global golf community, including numerous TOUR players who recognize quality vision and proper eyewear as an essential part of their game.”

The experience, open to all spectators throughout the week and to more than 400 school-aged children attending a youth clinic, will consist of numerous hands-on activities, including a putting area with vision simulation goggles, putting alignment and coaching, a swing simulator, Transitions eyewear demonstrations featuring the Transitions family of brands, meet and greets, the chance to win prizes, and much more. Visitors can also tour “Eyenstein” — Transitions’ and VSP® Vision Care’s 45-foot, state-of-the-art mobile eyecare clinic to learn about the importance of proper eyecare and eyewear, how eyeglasses are made and what to expect when receiving an eye exam.

“By introducing this experience at The Barclays, we hope to educate even more consumers about the importance of healthy, quality sight not only in relation to sports performance, but also in their everyday lives,” said Connie Falvo, director of external affairs, Transitions Optical. “Transitions is committed to raising awareness worldwide about proper eyecare and eyewear, and our partnership with the PGA TOUR and being the Official Eyewear continues to give us tremendous opportunities to do so.”

Transitions plans to continue the momentum by making this experience available at additional TOUR events in the upcoming year.

“It’s great to see Transitions bringing the message of healthy sight to other communities in which TOUR events are held,” said Kenny Perry, 14-time PGA TOUR winner. “I’ve struggled with vision problems throughout my entire life and truly understand how important it is to get this message out there to consumers. I, along with my team of coaches and trainers, am looking forward to meeting with spectators throughout tournament week to demonstrate how healthy vision can have an impact on your golf game.”

As the Official Eyewear of the PGA TOUR, Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour, Transitions Optical is the title sponsor of the Transitions Championship, the PGA TOUR’s Tampa Bay event, which tees off March 14 – 20, 2011 at Innisbrook Resort.

Source: Transitions Optical, Inc

Novel Scleral Lens Proves Clinically Beneficial In Patients Who Have Failed Conventional Therapies

Joseph Balboni loves sports. An avid tennis player and golfer, as well as baseball fan, the 46-year-old insurance agent became increasingly frustrated over time as his eyesight dimmed due to keratoconus, a degenerative eye disorder. Unable to return the tennis ball or see the pitch at Red Sox games, he faced the prospect of a corneal transplant to restore his vision and eye comfort.

Then three years ago, Balboni discovered an alternative treatment. He received a gas permeable scleral lens (covering the white of the eye) known as the Boston Ocular Surface Prosthesis (BOS-P) from the Boston Foundation for Sight in Needham, MA. “The scleral lens changed my life,” said Balboni. “I am very fortunate because the corneal transplant is an expensive operation with no guarantee of lasting results.” Balboni’s insurance company paid for the lion’s share of the roughly $8,000 for treatment and fitting of the lens, even though insurance coverage of the lens is not routine.

In the December issue of the American Journal of Ophthalmology Brandeis University researchers published a paper appraising the economic benefits of the BOS-P, a highly precise scleral lens used to treat severe cornea or ocular surface disease. A companion paper on the clinical benefits has been published online and will appear in the journal’s January issue.

The lens is custom fitted to the eye, vaulting the cornea while submerging the entire corneal surface in a pool of oxygenated artificial tears. Designed to improve vision, reduce eye pain, mitigate light sensitivity, and heal and protect the ocular surface, the lens is used in patients with eye diseases including keratoconus, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, dry eye syndrome, and chronic graft vs. host disease. The BOS-P is also useful in patients whose visual acuity is compromised after many types of eye surgery.

The studies were conducted by a team of researchers at the Heller School of Brandeis University that included William B. Stason, MD, a senior scientist, Donald Shepard, PhD, a professor and researcher, Moaven Razavi, MS, a research associate and PhD candidate, and Deborah S, Jacobs, MD, an ophthalmologist at the Boston Foundation for Sight and Harvard Medical School.

The clinical study assessed visual acuity and visual functioning in 69 patients before and after being fitted with a BOS-P. Using a scale from the National Eye Institute, the researchers reported highly significant improvements in visual functioning scores (from 57.0 to 77.8 on a scale of 0 to 100). Gains in visual acuity were also highly significant.

The economic analysis was then undertaken to assess the cost-effectiveness of the scleral lens for each patient fitted, as well as the economic value of resulting improvements in visual function. The researchers based the economic benefits on improvements in visual functioning and converted these to quality-adjusted-life-years (QALYs), a standardized measurement of health. The average cost-effectiveness of the prosthesis was $24,900 per QALY (a favorable value) and the average benefit-cost ratio was 4 to 1, and even higher, 5.6 to 1, in patients with especially severe eye disease.

The research team commented: “We were pleasantly surprised by the outcomes of our studies, because the scleral lens is an expensive device, but it turned out to be both cost-effective and offer a significant improvement in quality of life.”

The studies amplify what Joseph Balboni experienced as soon as he started wearing the BOS-P scleral lens: there is nothing like clear, pain-free vision to change your outlook on life.

Source: Laura Gardner

Brandeis University

Nail Salon Workers – Repeated And Prolonged Exposure To Variety Of Chemicals Could Put Workers At Risk

They pamper us and make us feel special. They
work long hours for low wages and English is usually their second
language, if then. They are mainly Vietnamese women who make their
living giving manicures and pedicures. They also suffer from acute
health effects associated with the chemicals they use in that work,
according to a new survey from the Northern California Cancer Center and
Asian Health Services of Oakland. This is one of the first such surveys
to focus on this understudied workforce.

“Nail care workers routinely handle products containing many potentially
harmful compounds, some of which are carcinogens or have endocrine
disrupting effects, yet are virtually unregulated,” explained Thu Quach,
MPH, of the Northern California Cancer Center. “Our survey is part of a
pilot project designed to characterize Vietnamese nail salon workers in
Alameda County, California in order to inform future health
interventions and reduce occupational exposures. Nail salon workers are
likely to have higher exposures to these compounds than the customers
they serve.”

Many toxic and potentially hazardous ingredients, including solvents,
plasticizers, resins and acids, are commonly found in nail care
products. The nail salon industry is recognized as one of the fastest
growing in the United States. Of California’s more than 35,000 salons,
the vast majority are owned or operated by Vietnamese women.

“A majority of the workers reported health concerns from exposures to
workplace chemicals,” reports Dung Nguyen of Asian Health Services who
directed the face-to-face interviews with 201 Vietnamese nail salon
workers at 74 salons. “Many of them reported having some health problem
after they began working in the industry, particularly skin and eye
irritation, breathing difficulties and headaches.” according to Nguyen.

“Our findings highlight a critical need for further investigation into
the breast cancer risk of nail salon workers, underscored by the
workers’ routine use of carcinogenic and endocrine-disrupting chemicals,
their prevalent health concerns about such chemicals, and their high
level of acute health problems,” adds Quach, “Moreover, the predominance
of Vietnamese immigrant women in this workforce makes it an important
target group for further research and health interventions.” The
NCCC/AHS partnership has recently been funded by California’s Breast
Cancer Research Program to further investigate these concerns.

A Preliminary Survey of Vietnamese Nail Salon Workers in Alameda County,
California was published on May 14th electronically on SpringerLink
and is scheduled to
appear in the October print issue of Journal of Community Health. The
full PDF version of the article is available here.

About the Northern California Cancer Center

The Northern California Cancer Center is a nationally recognized leader in
understanding the causes and prevention of cancer and in improving the
quality of life for individuals living with cancer. The organization has
been working with scientists, educators, patients, clinicians, and
community leaders since 1974. NCCC is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit with 150
employees and a $15 million operating budget.

Northern California Cancer Center