What is Syntonic Phototherapy?
Syntonic Phototherapy is the use of specific wavelengths of light to regain balance of the body’s regulatory centers. It has been used clinically for over 70 years to treat visual dysfunctions such as strabismus (eye turn), amblyopia (lazy eye), focusing and convergence problems, learning disorders, and the effects that occur due to brain injuries, concussion, stress, and trauma.
Physicians use blue light therapy to treat children born with jaundice, and use white light to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Dentists use light therapy to bond teeth. Optometrists use Syntonic Phototherapy to treat visual dysfunctions.
Syntonic Phototherapy is very effective with nearly all patients. It is a non-invasive treatment and it often yields faster results in a Vision Therapy program. It has helped:
- Individuals with strabismus (eyes that point in different direction)
- Reduce headaches in individuals who have had chronic headaches.
- Athletes to improve their sports
What is the history and science behind Syntonic Phototherapy?
Syntonic Phototherapy is based on the work of Dr. Harry Riley Spitler, MD, PhD. In his book, "The Syntonic Principle", he termed this science "Syntonics", derived from the word syntony, meaning “to bring into balance”. This refers to a balanced, integrated nervous system. The Autonomic Nervous System is divided into the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous system. Colored light therapy stimulates the biochemistry of the brain, through the visual system, by way of the retinal-hypothalmus brain connection. Biochemical conditions in the brain must be present before effective new functions can occur. Neurotransmitters trigger this biochemistry and enable growth in new directions.
How does Syntonic Phototherapy Work?
Red light (at one end of the visible spectrum) stimulates the sympathetic nervous system. Blue / indigo activates the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system controls functions such as blood pressure and heart rate – the “fight-or-flight” responses. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for sustaining day-to-day life, “rest and digest” activities, such as salivation, urination, digestion and defecation.
Syntonic Phototherapy uses specific wavelengths of light to achieve specific goals. The specific wavelength use is based on the specific vision problem, for example, an individual with Esotropia (an eye that turns in) has a different color filter combination than a person with Exotropia (an eye that turns out). A typical Syntonic Phototherapy treatment program lasts 3-4 weeks on average. Patients sit in a darkened room for up to 20 minutes and view a light through special color filters.
What Is Measured In The Evaluation And During Treatment?
To monitor change, we measure following before and during Syntonic Phototherapy:
Pupil Reaction: The pupil controls the amount of light allowed into the eye. It constricts (becomes smaller) when there is more light and dilates (becomes bigger) when there is less light. A pupil that reacts normally should constrict and remain constricted for at least ten seconds. If it does not, and dilates (becomes bigger), that indicates an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system.
Functional Visual Field: If the functional visual field is small (constricted, reduced), that causes greater difficulty in bringing in visual information. Imagine looking through a paper towel tube, it would be more difficult to see what is happening around you. You would then need to move the tube in order to see what is happening around you. Similarly, a smaller functional visual fields makes it difficult to notice what is happening around you, and it then makes it difficult to process information in the visual field. This causes visual stress.
When driving a car, for example, it is important to see what is in front of you, but it is also important to notice what is moving around you. When reading, it is important to see the word you are reading, but it is also important to notice where on the line of print you are so you know how to move your eyes to the next word, the next phrase, or the next line. This type of visual field problem is different than a visual field loss that occurs due to an eye or brain disease.
Functional field constrictions can improve with Syntonic Phototherapy treatment. This then leads to improved functional and binocular vision, better efficiency and greater comfort when reading or driving, for example.
Binocularity: This is the ability to use the two eyes, together as a team. At times, individuals suppress (turn off) the information from one eye, without realizing it, in an attempt to reduce and limit the amount of incoming information. This is a negative adaptation, but it helps the individual to be able to better handle the visual information that does come in. Ultimately it is better to be able to use the information from both eyes. This is measured before Syntonic Phototherapy treatment and then during treatment to determine improvement.
Studies and Results
A number of controlled studies have been conducted to measure the impact of Syntonic Phototherapy on learning (Kaplan, 1983; Liberman, 1986; Ingersol, 1998-1999). These studies indicate that “short-term syntonic treatment can significantly improve visual skills, peripheral vision, memory, behavior, mood, general performance and academic achievement.” The research also included a number of other interesting findings:
- Children with learning problems have a reduction in the sensitivity of their peripheral vision, which Syntonic Phototherapy helped.
- An experimental group given Syntonic Phototherapy, Vision Therapy and tutoring out-performed the group given only vision therapy and tutoring.
- People with head injuries or headaches seem to benefit the most. A study by Gottlieb and Wallace referred to an informal study of 46 head injury patients who had experienced a visual field loss. Seventy percent experienced field expansion after treatment.
Syntonic Phototherapy is a specific optometric treatment using specific wavelength of light, to restore balance to the nervous system. Nervous system balance is vital to all body functions, but especially vision. Syntony means balance; balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. Once balance is restored, the effect is long lasting in most cases.
Syntonic Phototherapy is different from “White Light” therapy used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). White light therapy is a bright white light shown at certain times of the day to help counteract seasonal variations in sunlight.
Light therapy alone may not be able to address all visual imbalances, and it is often used in conjunction with vision therapy, eyeglasses, or special optical aids.
Individuals find the following benefits from Syntonic Phototherapy:
- Improved visual acuity and contrast
- Improved visual attention
- Improved motivation and productivity
- Improved quality of sleep
- More energy
- More relaxed
- Less eye strain
- Less light sensitivity
- Less allergic sensitivity
- Improved digestion
- Improved appetite and diet
- Some weight loss, despite a greater yet more appropriate appetite
- Less craving for sugar, caffeine, and smoking
- Improved reproductive functions
Each individual responds uniquely. Often, changes are profound and long-standing. Vision Therapy patients are often surprised at the gains they make. Some may temporarily experience a brief cold, disorientation, congestion, a mild rash, and/or some emotional release at some point during the process. Passive children often become less so, requiring more careful attention from their parents for a time. Alcohol, smoking, caffeine, and other excesses or toxins may suppress or overwhelm light therapy’s effectiveness and should be avoided. A healthy diet and sufficient hydration are important to a successful light program.