SimplyBrainy » Low Plus Lenses And Prisms

Low Plus Lenses And Prisms

[Now updated with three case examples of pre-and post-miniprism application. 2/26/17]


Why should a child who sees 20/20 need glasses?

The application of low plus reading lenses (miniplus) and low power prisms (miniprisms), either separately or in combination, has had remarkable impact upon students and adults with reading and comprehension problems. This has been known and researched for decades and has been clinically explored more thoroughly over the past twenty+ years in our office. The results, demonstrated by changes in reading speed, word decoding, fluency, comprehension and – ultimately – grades, has been dramatic in a very high percentage of cases.

Not every student/reader will benefit from these stress-reducing lenses. But almost all of those who do, demonstrate improvement almost instantaneously. Most parents reading this pamphlet have just seen and heard this happen. This brochure is meant to explain more thoroughly what is happening and why lenses are important for your child’s learning ease. (Recently, as this is being written, a 13-YO male spontaneously said that most of his friends who tried his miniplus/miniprism lenses on said that they saw better with them.)

Why does this technique work?

This application works because many of these children suffer from visual function and visual processing problems. The lenses reduce the stress at two levels, one functioning, and the other in the actual processing.

One must understand a little about vision and reading, to be able to truly appreciate what happens when the low plus reading lenses and/or prisms are used.

Learning is a biological drive, it appears, as shown by research.

The Brain craves to learn. The Brain wants to experience new events, and while all the senses pour data into the Brain, the fastest method to receive the data is by reading. Reading is a highly complex task in which we have put the sounds making up words into a letter code. We then reconvert them back into the thoughts contained in the words. At least 80% of all our learning occurs through the visual sense, much of that is through reading.

Reading, however, is a very stressful task for the Brain. It actually provokes an avoidance response much like the “fight or flight” response: the heart rate increases; the pupils dilate; respiration can increase; adrenaline is produced; the perspiration rate increases – just as if an emergency were occurring. Two studies demonstrated this (Harmon, Pierce) and also that reading lenses decreased these responses.

Why should that happen? It appears that much of the stress is triggered by the complicated demands on the nervous system. What is happening in the Brain when this occurs? Well, the Voluntary Nervous System controls the eye muscles; and the Involuntary Nervous System controls the focusing of the lens. Both systems must work together. (The Involuntary and Voluntary Nervous Systems never work together in this way anywhere else in the body.) It is an extraordinary stress because of that. It creates distress.

There is another balancing act that must happen between the two subdivisions of the Involuntary system, but that is less demanding than the main conflict going on between the Voluntary and Involuntary divisions of the Brain. For a while, the Brain can stand the shock, but after 20-30 minutes, its comfort zone is challenged and will either signal the person to stop reading with symptoms of eyestrain or it will demand energy that has been going to decoding of the words. When this happens, the reading almost turns into “Greek” and the reader gets to the bottom of the page without absorbing anything. This happens to all of us at times. The third thing that can happen is that the structures of the eye can change to become nearsighted, a functional change which will reduce the stress because the eye is then focused for reading distance.

So, what do the lenses do?

Applying plus lenses in front of the eyes signals the Brain that the reading target is now farther away, which reduces the distress. Prisms do the same thing, but appear to do so from a top-down fashion, whereas plus lenses operate in a bottom-up fashion.

The total effect of the lenses and prisms is to reduce the stress by optically pushing the target just far enough away to reduce the demand upon the Brain’s balancing act. This keeps the visually-problemed student from fatiguing as quickly, and allows the processing of language to occur with much more effectiveness. It removes a significant barrier to learning in children who have these visual processing and function difficulties. The reduction in distress can also indirectly affect behavior.

Recently, another function of these lenses has become apparent in certain cortically hypersensitive Brains: these Brains suffer from image aliasing, creating an illusion of movement and other oddities (illusional mirages) because of the textual stripes. They function as a neural filter, permitting more harmonious blending of the dissonant signals. The plus and/or prism eliminates the illusion/mirages and may affect Brain cognitive processes directly for poorly understood – but clinically easily observed – reasons.  The preliminary thought is that the image novelty on the retina (which is known to preprocess the signal in cognitive manner) generates  dopamine (DA) release from specialized cells distributed evenly in the tissue. This DA release is then thought to stimulate the basal ganglia, resulting in increase in visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, color perception (Y-B, particularly) saccadic eye movement accuracy, and eye-hand coordination. All these have been seen clinically for over two decades, but no formal study was completed. Added to the mild image size increase and reduction in vergence stress — once again, very mild — and  we can observe very instant-like improvements in reading accuracy, fluency, prosody, handwriting, and mood (stress relief).

Let me share one case with you: a young child received a pair of plus/prism lenses, but the father was not present for the very dramatic demonstration that had confirmed the benefit of this lens prescription. He hesitantly agreed to the lenses. A few days later, the father walked by the child’s room as she was working on her computer. He heard the slow “ticky-tick” of the keys. Looking in, he noticed that she was working without her new lenses. The father asked her to stop and get the glasses, because of our instruction for her to use them at the computer. As he started to leave the room, he heard his daughter, now with glasses in place, typing again – but now, he heard a faster typing – as he put it, a “tickety-tickety-tickety” of the computer keys.

The daughter was now working three times faster, and in this way, the father got to “hear” the glasses in action. Any doubts he had were now gone, her mother later told me. This is just one example of the performance changes that can occur when these lenses are used as part of the solution to your child’s learning problems.


Seizure Disorder

EEG of a 10-YOF with 30-40 absence seizures per day, generated by light intensity and always when looking toward the sun. Applied 2 prism diopters of Bases In prism to each eye, with dramatic resolution. First image is her baseline EEG, all notes are by the EEG technician, Lisa:

Application of the miniprism glasses immediately quieted the very “noisy” EEG above, causing her to remark while staring toward the sun, “I’ve never felt so comfortable in my life, and I can’t give myself a seizure.”  Her seizures deceased to 4-5 per day.  She now looked like this:

Visual-Motor Change:

Handwriting change midway down the page when mother reminded fourth-grader  “Gregory” to put on his glasses:


Qualitative EEG’s:

The use of qEEG’s for comparisons has been considered controversial by some.  Their use for same-person comparisons is far less debatable. These following maps were collected by a neuropsychologist and read by a neuropsychiatrist. Sam was a 30-YOM in his first year of master’s program study.  The written report notes that the first set of maps suggested a “generalized encephalopathology.”  Review of the submission revealed that the neuropsychiatrist had never been advised that the student was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy since childhood and had been educated at a private school for handicapped children just north of Pittsburgh, PA.  The second set was collected 8 weeks later and the interpreter had no explanation for the changes. We had done 7 weeks of visual-motor and visual perceptual therapeutic activities and he was now wearing miniprisms and had almost immediately commented that he was now losing his way when driving, saying, “It’s like my mind-map has changed.”

Initial qEEG (note the values in the Beta wave column):

qEEG after 8 weeks of miniprisms and Visual Therapy (note the changes in the Beta wave column; Beta waves are thought to represent high-order thinking skills, alertness). There are almost 3 standard deviations of change and his academic and personal life reflected all of that:


© 2011 - 2017 Merrill D. Bowan, O.D. All rights reserved


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