How I Saw Six-and-a-Half Moons (part 2)
“Aim for the moon. If you miss, you may hit a star”.
W. Clement Stone
So the point is…?
It turns out that people with depression have a harder time distinguishing contrast. The reason that the world appears grey or blue to someone is associated with this phenomenon (hence, “feeling blue”).
Is it possible to improve their mood with “rose-colored glasses”?
Yes, just not with pink! Some intraocular lenses are made with a yellow chromophore to give the patient’s vision a warmer tone. It is approximately the amount of yellow present in the lenses of a 15-year-old, and it allows less blue to filter through. Therefore, it was expected that these lenses would have the same effect as yellow-tinted glasses. However, research has shown that depression is equally common among people who use these yellow lenses. So if you have the intraocular lenses, you must use the glasses, as well.
But there are some people who can’t distinguish color at all. Surely that affects their mood?
You are talking about achromatopsia, or the lack of color vision. There are famous cases in which artists, after injury, have become colorblind, as is graphically described in Oliver Sacks’ book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. A healthy person is trichromatic; they have three types of cones or receptors. Dichromatics only two. In monochromatics, all three mechanisms are damaged (although sometimes only two), and they can only see black and white. Interestingly, though, people with congenital achromatopsia are not necessarily at a loss, as they see the world with a unique beauty, distinguishing between different shades of grey. They can also distinguish color photos from black-and-white.
In your experience, do you see a connection between vision and state-of-mind?
Every day! Sometimes we are brought elderly patients in wheelchairs and they are nearly catatonic. They don’t participate in life, aren’t interested in TV or books, and sit in the wheelchair with their head down. Family doctors and psychiatrists often hurriedly diagnose them with depression, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and the like, but a second opinion should always include a test for cataracts. What if these people are failing to respond to the world because they have poor vision or hearing? It has often happened that I remove a patient’s cataracts and they come back to life! They start walking, talking, and taking a genuine interest in life again.
Psychologically, it’s almost a resurrection.
I must admit that when I can help someone and see such dramatic change… it elevates my mood to the highest level.
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