When I first got glasses at age 9, it opened up a whole new world for me. I had forgotten that I was supposed to be able to see leaves on trees without being close enough to touch them. Then I put my first glasses on, and there those leaves were. I imagine that someday I will need reading glasses as well, and the experience will be similar.
But science and the body are complicated, and various studies suggest that there are ways to train the eyes to delay the loss of close-range visual focus that inspires the need for reading glasses. The New York Times has a great article on the subject.
The loss of the ability to read small print well is called presbyopia, and by age 45, it affects around 83% of North Americans. By age 50, nearly every adult experiences some degree of it. (That is also why the sale of bifocals or graduated eyeglass lenses booms for that demographic.)
However some studies imply that people can lessen the affects of presbyopia by training the brain by looking at Gabor patches. Gabor patches are typically grey-scale images that stimulate the parts of the brain that process vision. By looking at these images, people strengthen the muscles in the eyes that allow people to focus on words.
The full article goes into a lot more detail about the science behind this process, and I suggest you check it out for yourself. Since the science is still rather inconclusive, I’m not sure what to think, but I do know that the human body is remarkable. After all, when I regularly wear contact lenses, the astigmatism or the deviated curvature of the lenses in my eyes begins to self correct. When I don’t wear contact lenses for a while, the astigmatism worsens. It is entirely possible that Gabor patches and other training methods similarly impact presbyopia.
But if Gabor patches fail me, I won’t be too heartbroken; I am looking forward to stacking my regular and reading glasses on top of each other like a mad scientist after all.
— — —
Image Attribution: Conrad von Soest, “Glasses Apostle”, 1403.