Treatment option: syntonic light therapy
A pivotal and maybe even essential piece of the recovery puzzle
More than 50% of the brain’s real estate is involved in the processing of visual information (not necessarily dedicated to it, but involved in it).
Given this, it makes sense that a multifocal brain injury would disrupt one’s visual processing ability, with a cascade of downstream effects, including but not limited to balance issues, sensory overload, and emotional overwhelm.
It makes intuitive and logical sense that therapy delivered through the eyes might help the brain recalibrate and/or reacquire the functions disrupted or lost in the injury.
Enter syntonic phototherapy. Here’s a brief definition from the College of Syntonic Optometry:
Syntonics or optometric phototherapy, is the branch of ocular science dealing with the application of selected light frequencies through the eyes. It has been used clinically for over 70 years in the field of optometry with continued success in the treatment of visual dysfunctions, including strabismus (eye turns), amblyopia (lazy eye), focusing and convergence problems, learning disorders, and the after effects of stress and trauma. In recent years, Syntonics has been shown to be effective in the treatment of brain injuries and emotional disorders.
When light enters our eyes, it doesn’t just help us see what’s in front of us—there’s a signaling to deeper parts of the brain, such as the hypothalamus and pineal gland. By using specific forms of light, we can influence these and other parts of the brain.
What does syntonic light therapy involve?
As with neurofeedback, physical and occupational therapy, syntonic therapy involves an essential meeting with someone who properly assesses your specific needs and gives you “homework,” after which you’ll do 99% of the therapy on your own. Still, you need the expert to set you on the right path.
Only a small handful of eye doctors are trained in syntonics. Use this find a practitioner page. At your appointment, the doctor will perform an evaluation to determine precisely which colored lenses you need. To repeat, this isn’t something you can do on your own.
After your evaluation, you’ll be provided with one or more pairs of colored glasses, most likely made by Syntonac, along with a special light bulb that produces the required spectrum at the appropriate wattage.
For the next few months, you’ll spend around 20 minutes a day wearing different colored glasses in a prescribed sequence as you look at the light bulb in a dark room (I did it while listening to podcasts). For example, you might wear reddish alpha-omega lenses for five minutes, then switch to a greenish mu-delta lenses for 15 minutes.
“To the black, to the white, the red and the brown, the purple and yellow.”
After doing this five days a week for around three months, you’ll return for a re-evaluation. Vision improvements should be measurable. You’ll likely switch to a new set of colors (or drop one color and add one) and proceed with the therapy for another three months. Therapy will likely conclude within six to nine months.
My experience with syntonic light therapy
I was born with a “lazy eye” and based on that condition alone, I might have benefitted from receiving syntonic therapy as a child.
Being able to see much better out of one eye than the other, I grew up (my brain grew up) having to make neurological accommodations in order to make sense of what I was seeing. My brain had to learn, for example, to ignore bad information from the weak eye and adjust to achieve a level of reliable stereoscopic vision.
It makes sense that having this kind of underlying condition would make any recovery from a brain injury more challenging. If more than 50% of the brain is involved in processing visual information, and the brain also has to make that information jive with information from other sources, such as the vestibular system, then it stands to reason that a brain injury might require some relearning of the visual processing accommodations I had to acquire as a child. You might be facing a similar scenario.
When I began syntonic therapy, I noticed myself having a deep physiological sigh about 10 to 15 minutes into it. Whenever any therapy produces such an involuntary sigh, I take that as a sign that my nervous system is welcoming it and needs it. In the past, I’ve had the same kind of sigh after an atlas orthogonal adjustment, for example.
My eye performance has measurably improved from syntonic therapy. I also feel an overall reduction in fight or flight activation, in which the eyes are heavily involved (one’s eyes can react to sympathetic activation and be involved in triggering it).
On a related note, I’ve also made it a habit to incorporate more walking into my activity routine, after learning (from the Huberman Lab) how optic flow and the side to side motion of the eyes during walking has a calming effect on the amygdala and the nervous system. EMDR therapy is based on this principle.
Achieving the syntonic state
Interestingly, the word syntonic has been around long before it was applied to light therapy.
A person is said to be syntonic when they are responsive to and in harmony with their environment so that affect is appropriate to the given situation. To be, say, calm when we are called to be calm, or when want to be; to be alert when we are called to be alert, or when we want to be.
I believe syntonic light therapy can be a pivotal and maybe even essential piece of the TBI recovery puzzle. If you look into it, I hope you find it helpful.
Brainwave is an informational resource for people whose symptoms haven’t resolved after a concussion or mTBI. I endeavor to present this information in a clear and concise way, spelling out what’s backed by science and what remains unknown. Nothing here is meant as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. I am not a physician or a healthcare practitioner of any kind; I’ve simply had a lot of sports-related concussions and had to learn this stuff the hard way. If you found this information helpful or know someone who might benefit from it, please share and subscribe to Brainwave.