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Eyes Wide Shut: Beating Visual Suppression with the Brock String

Visual Suppression

In last week’s vlog on Computer Vision Syndrome, we delved into the significant role of binocular vision dysfunction (BVD) and its link to Visual Suppression. The discussion sparked numerous questions, indicating a keen interest in the topic.
If you haven’t seen it, click here

So, this week we decided to do a quick article for you to explain two things more clearly:

  1. Visual Suppression – a condition that, if left unchecked, can significantly impact
    your performance and daily life, and,
  2. The Brock String- a fantastic vision therapy tool that’s been around for almost 100 years.



Understanding Visual Suppression
Before diving into the specifics of the Brock String, let’s unpack what visual suppression
really means. In essence, it’s a defense mechanism where the brain chooses to ignore
information from one eye to prevent double vision (diplopia) or reduce visual confusion.
It involves numerous areas of the brain including the visual cortex and has both static
and dynamic variations. While on the surface, it might seem like a helpful shortcut to
reduce visual confusion, this process can lead to a cascade of problems including:

  • Depth Perception Issues: Since depth perception requires input from both eyes,
    suppression can lead to challenges in judging distances accurately, affecting
    tasks like catching a ball, driving, or navigating stairs.
  • Eye Strain: Struggling to clarify your visual input may lead to eye fatigue,
    discomfort, burning, blurriness, and dry eyes.
  • Exhausting Visual Tasks: Because reading, writing, or focusing on detailed visual
    tasks with suppression is very taxing and confusing for the brain, these activities
    can leave you exhausted, even after a short period of time.
  • Squinting or Closing One Eye: Squinting or shutting one eye to improve clarity,
    especially in bright light or when focusing on distant objects.
  • Headaches and Neck Pain: Suppression can lead to a whole host of postural
    compensations and muscle tension. This means that any type of challenging
    vision work can result in headaches, neck, back and shoulder pain, migraines,
    and more.

While there are different forms of (static and dynamic) of suppression and numerous
potential causes, our primary goal today is to give you some ideas on how to both
assess and train your visual system.


Enter the Brock String

Named after Dr. Frederick Brock, a pioneer in vision therapy, the Brock String is
disarmingly simple. It consists of an approximately 10-foot-long string with colored
beads, designed to train the eyes to align and focus together accurately.


How It Should Work
The process is straightforward but profoundly effective. Here’s how to use it:

  • Tie one end of the string to a fixed point at roughly eye level.
  • Move back until the string is taut and position three beads at approximately 10, 20 and 30 inches away from the end of the string.
  • Hold the end of the string to the tip of your nose and look at the middle bead.
  • You should be aware of or “see” 2 strings ENTERING the bead and 2 stringsmEXITING the bead creating an “X” with the bead in the center.
  • This “X” is the sweet spot, indicating that your eyes are both working in concert and that they are both focusing at the correct distance.


The Brock String and Suppression
However, not everyone can form this perfect “X” right away. If you are unable to create the “X” this usually points to underlying issues with binocular vision, such as Visual Suppression. Many of our clients with significant suppression will only see ONE string when we first test them, or they may see an unusual pattern of strings where one of the 4 lines that make up the “X” is missing or “ghosting” in and out. Alternatively, many clients will see an “X” but it is not at the bead, but instead is in front of or behind it. All these findings indicate that there may be suppression or other visual issues that need to be addressed.
The good news is that the Brock String can often be used to break the suppression and
retrain your visual system and brain to cooperate more easily. Here are some simple
tips for beginning the process of breaking the suppression:

  • While looking at one bead use your other hand to bounce or shake the string.
  • Slightly rotate your head and neck to one side or the other and notice if that makes the string appear.
  • Use the hand not holding the string and attempt to reach out and touch the bead you are looking at without missing.

I See the “X” – Now What?

If you are already able to easily see the “X” – congrats! Here are some training advancements you can try:

Switch Focus Between Beads: Shift your focus to beads at varying distances
and at different speeds. Use a metronome to challenge yourself.

Clock Saccades: Begin by fixating on a bead and creating your “X”. Now,
quickly shift your eyes to a target at the 12 o’clock position and then quickly
return to the bead. See if you can do this and return to the bead and immediately
see the perfect “X”. Do this all the way around the clock and don’t be surprised if
you have more trouble recreating the “X” from different positions.

Incorporate Movement: As you become more adept try incorporating head and
body movements. You can begin with gentle, small range of motion head turns
and tilts while maintain the “X” to full blown walking drills to ramp up the
challenge exponentially.

Making the Brock String Work for You
Incorporating the Brock String into your routine doesn’t require heavy lifting, but it does demand consistency and patience. Start with short, daily sessions, gradually increasing difficulty as your coordination improves. Remember, the path to mastering your vision, much like any other aspect of health and performance, is a marathon, not a sprint. And, if after a few training sessions, you’re not seeing progress, make CERTAIN to consult with your vision care specialist for an evaluation to address any potential issues with visual suppression.

Over the last two decades we’ve been blown away by the impact that a simple tool like
the Brock String can have on our clients’ visual performance, movement, pain, overall
quality of life. Your vision is a vital part of your performance equation, and we hope that
you’re able to use this info to make some fantastic improvements!

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