Featured How Vision Impacts Your Shooting Dr. Neal Olshan May 15, 2017 The Psychology and Physiology of Improving Your Eyesight Warning! This article is not a substitute for proper eye care and protection of your vision. Consult with a credentialed vision specialist on a regular basis. You only look with your eyes — you really are seeing with your mind. — Bud Decot, Founder of Decot Sport Glasses As you read the quote above, the visual networks of your brain are taking in more than 100 million bits of information. Your eyes flit from place to place, usually never landing longer than a second on any one word. You may think you see the world as a seamless whole, but your retinas are segregating information into categories, a screening process that keeps the brain from getting overwhelmed by too much visual stimulation. Now think of what was presented to you in terms of eye movement and shooting or hitting your target with greater accuracy and consistency. Your eyesight can be the major factor in determining whether you win or lose, finish in the top five or bottom five, and probably most significantly, survive a lethal encounter. The Sense of it All OK, we’ll start with the basics. You have five senses: vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. The brain devotes more real estate to the processing of visual information than all other senses combined. Thirty different parts of our brain are devoted to processing the information from our eyes. Vision has its own unique neural operating system that routes environmental information to specialized cells called sensory receptors. That information is then transformed into electrical signals that can be read by the brain. In a microsecond, those signals are processed in their own respective areas of the brain’s cortex and then sent to a part of the brain called the thalamus, which acts as a sensory integrator, putting all the information together. Your brain continuously processes the information from the senses, providing you with information that’s used to assist you in decision making. Imagine how many millions of bits of information are processed, especially from vision, in the act of shooting at a target. Multiply that exponentially if your target is moving. Bottom line—your vision allows you to make critical decisions that can improve your shooting proficiency. Shooting Glasses … The First Line of protection Use of ballistic-rated shooting eye protection isn’t a maybe — it’s a must. The term “ballistics” means “the science that studies the movement of objects (such as bullets or rockets) that are shot or forced to move forward through the air.” Ballistic-rated eyewear is designed and tested to survive the military’s high-speed impact and fragmentation standards. The civilian standard for safety eyewear is indicated by a Z87+ marking which denotes complience with ANSI Z87 (American National Standards Institute) standards. The Military Ballistic Standard 662 indicates a product meets military-grade standards. Advantages of Different Lens Colors The color of lens you prefer is no more than a personal preference. However, some colors do offer advantages that can help your shooting. Smoke, gray, and gray-green tints: These are the most common lens colors. They’re effective at blocking glare without changing color perception, making them a good choice for all-weather use. Gray is a neutral, or true, color that allows the wearer to see all colors as they are. Gray shooting lenses don’t enhance the target, but they’re good in bright sunlight. Amber-brown lens tints: These are especially good at blocking the blue light commonly found in diffused light such as one might experience on a cloudy day. Amber can improve both contrast and depth perception and is a good all-around choice for shooting or hunting. Yellow or orange tints: These improve contrast and give a sensation of heightened visual acuity. Lenses in these hues block haze and blue light and enhance the orange color of the target. The brighter yellow the lens color is, the better it is for use during low-light conditions. Purple-vermillion tints: These enhance the orange of the target against a colorful background. Vermillion itself is useful to highlight conditions where there’s poor background, such as trees, and to enhance the target against the background. Clear: Clear lenses offer no enhancements for shooting other than protection. But when shooting at night, a clear lens is the perfect choice because it won’t affect your vision, while still offering protection. What You Can Do to Improve Your Eyesight Accommodation Reflex: Focus flexibility is the ability to change focus from a faraway object to a near one, or vice versa. After age 40 you may notice this ability begin to degrade. Practice: Take a few minutes per day and practice focus flexibility by concentrating on switching focus between distant and near objects (don’t do this while driving a car). If you work at a computer, switch your focus between the computer screen and various objects in the room. Peripheral Awareness: This is the ability to perceive objects or actions on either side of you without turning your head. Practice: Look at an object or scene with your head turned slightly to the left or right. Don’t forget to practice on the other side as well. Dynamic Visual Acuity: This is the ability of the eyes to see objects clearly when they’re moving quickly. Skeet, clays, or hunting are perfect examples. Even if you have 20/20 vision while reading an eye chart, add movement and your visual acuity may decrease. Practice: As the passenger in a car, try reading numbers as you drive by signs. Be inventive and create your own training protocol. The world around you is in constant motion; use it to improve your dynamic visual acuity. Depth Perception: This is the visual ability to make spatial determinations. This would include the distance between you another person, object, or target. There are literally hundreds of examples of the need for good depth perception across the spectrum of employing guns. Practice: Here are two examples: be creative and come up with your own. At arm’s length, put the cap on a pen. Hold a BB at arm’s length and drop it into a drinking straw that you’re holding in your other hand. Finding Your Dominant Eye There’s a sophisticated test that can conclusively determine which eye is dominant. But you can perform your own quick test—use both hands to form a small triangle between the thumbs in the first knuckles of your forefingers. With both eyes open and your arms outstretched, move your hands until you have a distant object such as a picture or doorknob centered in the triangle. Shut your left eye. If the object stays centered, you’re right-eye dominant. If the object moves out of center, you’re left-eye dominant. Dr. John McCall How to Slow Down the Aging of Your Eyes Nutrients such as Vitamin A, Omega 3s, zinc, copper, and lutein have been proven to benefit the eyes. In addition, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and eye conditions, including cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), have been shown to occur less frequently in people who eat diets rich in vitamins, minerals, healthy proteins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and lutein. Dr. John McCall, an optometrist and avid hunter from Crockett, Texas, recommends Omega-3 fatty acids in addition to Macuhealth (sold in ophthalmologist’s offices). The American Optometric Association recommends 10 mg per day of lutein and 2 mg per day of zeaxanthin. How Often Should You Have Your Eyes Checked? McCall recommends that prior to age 18, eyes should be checked occasionally or as needed due to vision problems. From age 18 to 40, have your eyes checked every other year. After age 40, check them every year. Of course, your eye doctor is the final authority as to frequency of examinations. Brain Training for Vision A study conducted by researchers at McMaster University indicated that playing first-person shooter games can help improve the eyesight of people with conditions like amblyopia or cataracts. UltimEyes is a game-based app that claims to improve your vision and “reverse the effects of aging eyes.” According to the developers, the app works with the brain cortex that processes the signals from the eyes into vision. Scientists and researchers around the world see these types of apps as a gateway to better vision. Vision Essentials > Get enough rest: The eye muscles need time to relax and rejuvenate. Your eyes need sleep as much as any other part of your body. > Stay hydrated: Your eyes need water to prevent your eyes from becoming dry, blurry, or tired. > Limit or eliminate alcohol within 24 hours of a shooting event. > Have your eyes checked on a regular basis. If you aren’t sure how long it’s been since your last eye exam, then it’s time! > Always wear ballistic-rated glasses any time you’re around guns, even if you aren’t shooting. Don’t clean or work on your guns unless you’re wearing ballistic glasses. > Obtain sighting systems that help compensate for any vision deficiencies. > Find an eye specialist that you can visit on a regular basis—possibly one who understands the dynamics of the gun lifestyle. Don’t Despair Utilize the skills and experience of an instructor who has been around the block more than once. They typically know what works and what’s a waste of money as a vision aid. This doesn’t mean that you’ll need to spend beaucoup bucks for the latest and greatest scope, red-dot, etc. Older Eyes May Like The Peep Using the old-school peep sight may improve your shooting accuracy by taking advantage of the natural tendency of your eye to find the center of a circle. As our eyes age, shooting open sights can present problems since the eye tends to stray between target, front post, and rear notch. Olympic shooters use peep sights in rimfire competition. Shooting middle distances and closer using a peep sight may give you tighter groups and a consistent repetition of the sight picture. Hey, it’s a Big Dot Shortly after beginning this column I was sent a Springfield Armory .45 1911 Range Officer. Upon removing it from the box and sighting down the barrel, I saw that the rear sight was adjustable with a substantial front post … both matte black. It was dusk at the range and as I looked down the barrel, I realized that with my eyesight (I’m over 55), the dark front post was difficult to see. An instructor friend was watching and said, “You need a Big Dot.” Two days later, Big Dot installed … problem solved. If your vision isn’t as good as it used to be, get a sighting system that gives you the sight picture you need. In the Blink of an Eye The average person blinks about 20,000 times a day. Each time, the brain shifts into high gear to keep things illuminated. If it didn’t, we’d have to adjust to the darkness every time we blinked. The lens of the eye never stops growing. Why Wear Glasses? Approximately 75 percent of adults require some sort of corrective lenses, according to the Vision Council of America. About 64 percent wear eyeglasses, with the other 11 percent wearing contact lenses. The Cross Dominant Shooter An example of being cross dominant is a shooter who’s right handed, but has a dominant left eye. It’s believed that 85 to 90 percent of the world’s population is right handed. However, about two-thirds of the population is right-eye dominant, and one-third is left-eye dominant. Only a small number (thought to be around 1 percent) have no dominance by either eye. Note that only a tiny region in the center of the eye can see sharply. Computer Vision Syndrome According to the American Optometric Association, everyone who spends more than two continuous hours on their computer, is ruining their eyes with Computer Vision Syndrome. Resources: What You Must Know About Food and Supplements for Optimal Vision Care: Ocular Nutrition Handbook 1st Edition by Jeffrey Anshel OD High Performance Vision: How to Improve Your Visual Acuity, Hone Your Motor Skills & Up Your Game Paperback by Dr. Donald S. Teig Sports Vision: Vision Care for the Enhancement of Sports Performance, 1st Edition by Graham B. Erickson OD FAAO FCOVD About the Author Dr. Neal H. Olshan is the developer of Evolution of Mindset and is a consulting psychologist for corporations and the sports industry for athletic improvement using his Mindset program. He is also a glider pilot, an award-winning photographer, and author of both fiction (with his wife, Mary) and nonfiction books. He is the Chief Combat Psychologist for LMS Defense. He lives in Scottsdale, Arizona. Ask Dr. O I was one of the all too many who thought the only way to improve your vision was one of the following: surgery if you had cataracts or a physical condition that could be corrected through surgery, a more powerful prescription for my glasses, more expensive glass (scopes, red-dot, etc). But … wow, were my eyes opened (pun intended). Send me your thoughts at [email protected]. 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