Discover more from Biohacking My Broken Brain
Chicago's Mind-Eye Institute can work miracles
But it doesn't appear likely to work for me
With my newfound will and attention following rTMS, I decided to explore an option that could help to “rewire” my brain by changing the way light enters the retina, and how information moves through the brain. After all, it worked for Dr. Elliot after 14 years of hell.
This was a test and treatment that was only available in Chicago, and I thought I’d get it done before leaving the continent. And if it wouldn’t work for me, I would probably learn a lot.
The trouble was getting there. I haven’t driven more than a short distance for a couple of years now, and Chicago was about a 12-hour drive from Winnipeg. I couldn’t even afford the treatment, nevermind the cost of travel. I’d struggled to find a co-pilot, so I’d have to do this on my own. Besides, it would be a good test run for my long trip to Switzerland, whenever that might be.
I would drive a few hours at a time, and then pull over and blindfold myself until I could feel my limbs, and then repeat the process over (and over) again. I managed to do the trip in two days. I wish I could have taken my time, but putting my body into unfamiliar environments only sets my nervous system on fire, so being quick about it was necessary.
For a better description of the Mind-Eye experience, you’ll have to read The Ghost In My Brain, but I’ll give you a short summary of my own experience.
Scoring high, feeling low
The Mind-Eye Institute uses a patented Z-bell test to find out where our perceptual errors are. After a series of cognitive tests, I was seated with the famous Dr. Zelinsky, who was warm, tenacious, and optimistic in her interactions with me.
“You scored really high on these tests,” she said, “including one that nobody gets!”
I was really excited to hear that, because in this state, I can’t help but feel mostly like a useless vegetable. And I was so overstimulated after the test that it felt like I needed a sedative.
“So you have all this capacity and potential, but it’s wasted because the environment is overstimulating,” she said.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
“That won’t do. We'll have to change that.”
I loved her optimism.
“It took Dr. Elliot four years to get better. You’ll be faster than that.”
I needed to hear that.
She tested my vision, and it was mostly fine. And then she tested my perception by having me close my eyes.
She would ring a bell and then ask me to touch it with my eyes closed. This would test how my retina filters different frequencies of light, and how my vision lines up with my hearing. Depending on which colour of lens she would put in front of my (closed) eyes, my accuracy would change! It was pretty fun, and wild to experience. It would be a great party trick.
This process helps formulate a prescription that can improve neuroplasticity. She described it as a process where signals that are being transmitted through faulty wires can be re-routed into fewer channels. Dr. Elliot also describes this elegantly in his book.
Since I feel like I have information that’s corrupted as it moves through my brain, I wondered if I could change the information pathways? Another long-shot hunch based on a whim and a feeling, I guess.
Dr. Zelinsky suggested that I simply lower my prescription and observe a slightly fuzzier world for awhile. I was skeptical about this, because my main problem was actually the extreme reactions to light I was having, especially following rTMS, leading me to wear these ridiculous glasses around the clock.
Finally, because of the extreme tension on the right side of my body and neck, Dr. Z wondered if she could relieve the pressure by doing something even more unusual — putting a “plug” in my tear duct. I’d have to stay an extra night, and this seemed to me a very strange suggestion, but I was here, and I had nothing to lose. What the hell.
Not my holy grail
Sadly, of course, the duct-plugs did nothing for my neck tension. And as impressive as the assessment was, I was left feeling that this might not be my holy grail. It might not even be an ingredient in the healing toolkit… but my fuzzy prescription would arrive in a couple of weeks.
On the drive home, as I stopped-and-started to overcome all the somatosensory road-blocks and profound exhaustion, I completed Norman Doidge’s audiobook The Brains Way of Healing, which I’d mentioned in a previous post.
All of this effort was just a sign to myself that I was keeping some optimism alive. Something to pull me forward, toward whatever the next step would be on my path.
I’d likely be leaving for Switzerland soon, and at least I knew I had exhausted every option near my home base, at least for now.