At the time, I lived in an unpleasant area of Los Angeles. I didn’t like anything about it: the ugly apartment buildings, the noise, dirty sidewalks, and neighbors’ faces… even the moon annoyed me.
One evening, though, I noticed that the moon wasn’t alone; there were three pale moons in the sky. If you counted more carefully, there were actually six. Was I on the same planet? I only wanted to leave the neighborhood. When a friend came to help me move, I asked him,
“How many moons do you see?”
He softly replied,
“I see six and a half!” I boasted.
“Are you sure you’re all there?”
I learned that I had mature cataracts. Later, I learned that I suffered from depression, as well, but I never took pills for it.
After my second operation, I went for a walk and was struck so deeply with my renewed, clear vision that euphoria overwhelmed me. Even after that burst of happiness passed, however, I stayed in a great mood.
I was delighted to see the world in such detail: delicate yellow petals and iridescent flies, both motionless in the sun’s rays as if suspended on strings. Or perhaps those “strings” were just sparkles that continued for miles.
The overall euphoria didn’t last long, though. I soon discovered that the left eye was not 20/20, as the doctor had promised, and the right was getting hazy. My mood declined sharply, and my new street, which was beautiful the day before, became horrible to look at. This made me realize that choosing a doctor must be done carefully. I scolded myself for not doing so, but this did nothing to improve my vision.
Looking ahead, I can say that things improved, along with my mood. Today, we will talk about this with renowned Los Angeles eye surgeon, Arthur Benjamin.
Is there a connection between vision and mood?
It’s a simple fact, thus our office’s slogan, “Life is Beautiful, See It.” But in order to appreciate beauty, you must see clearly. Experiments by Israeli scientists have shown vision markedly deteriorates in those with depression. This causes a feedback loop where deteriorating vision in turn negatively affects perception of life.
What did the experiment consist of?
Sufferers of depression volunteered to view special images. Under the conditions of the experiment, subjects can either distinguish between series of vague, individual fragments, or cannot see them at all. It showed that depression impairs the brain’s ability to process visual information.
That sounds like America, alright. Obviously, the person who is depressed will be very apathetic. When you aren’t happy with anything, then you’re aren’t up for noticing these things.
A psychologist could speak more eloquently on the subject, but it would be interesting if a diagnosis of depression could be a sort of vision test, and by the same method monitor the effectiveness of therapy.
I’m more interested in the relationship between the two.
Ophthalmologists have noticed this for a long time. If you wear the wrong kind of glasses and contacts, or ignore your cataracts, it will affect your general condition. Impaired vision affects perception of light, and I use that phrase both literally and figuratively. Poor eyesight will not help your mood. If you are watching a movie and cannot hear the characters, or can barely make out their shapes, you will feel disabled when discussing the film with others.
How does this relationship work?
When someone is depressed, the world seems flat and monochrome, with overtones of blue or grey. For a long time, scientists believed that this was a purely psychological phenomenon, but recent research has shown that it may be biological. At the University of Freiburg, they recruited 80 subjects, 40 of which were diagnosed with depression, and 20 of those had taken antidepressants. The other 40 served as a control group. In addition to questions about perception, electrical impulses between the retina and brain were recorded, which is where information is interpreted as color, shape, and contrast.
(to be continued)
Text and Photos: Sebastian Varo
Translation: Richard Grenvelge
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