Syntonic Phototherapy is the use of specific wavelengths of light to regain the balance of the body’s regulatory centers. Syntonic Phototherapy, also known as Light Therapy, is an advanced non-invasive treatment that has been around for over 100 years that can 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.
What is Syntonic Phototherapy?
One example of first line treatment using photo-therapy that many people are aware of, and used commonly, is used to treat Jaundice in newborns. High Bilirubin levels cause the skin to look yellow and the treatment for that is placing the child under blue light.
Phototherapy can help treat various conditions through specific color wavelengths.
- Improve behavior, mood, and body physiological functions.
- Physicians can treat conditions such as: sleep disorders, Seasonal Affective Disorder, chronic headaches, and migraines.
- It can also treat individuals who have had a stroke, concussion, or brain injury due to trauma.
- Individuals with strabismus (eyes that point in a different direction)
- Reduce headaches in individuals who have had chronic headaches.
- Athletes to improve their sports
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.
Your Vision & Syntonic Phototherapy
A major portion of the brain is devoted to processing vision. About 80% of learning is through vision. When the eyes don’t work together as a team, such as in strabismus (when one eye turns in or out relative to the other), or convergence insufficiency (difficulty in sustaining the stamina to bring the eyes to point together at near), it can affect how a child reads and learns. It can also affect athletic performance, proficiency and work, and home life activities. We use syntonic light therapy to treat visual disorders that affect learning abilities in children.
The retina (the back part of the eye where light is captured and processed) is neural (brain) tissue. That is why Syntonic Phototherapy, (presenting specific wavelengths of light through the visual system), is so effective in making improvements and changes to the brain.
It is important that the doctor who is prescribing Syntonic Phototherapy is well versed and experienced in this field. Like most things, it requires education and experience to know what specific wavelengths to use in order to treat specific problems to ultimately get positive results.
What is the history and science behind Syntonic Phototherapy?
Syntonic Phototherapy is based on the work of Dr. Harry Riley Spitler, MD, Ph.D. 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.
Dr. Harry Riley Spitler explained these pathways in The Syntonic Principle, where he discusses how light sent through the retina changes the physiology of the thalamus, hypothalamus, and pituitary gland.
Certain frequencies of colored light stimulate specific areas and affect different aspects of the nervous system3:
- Red and Orange are lower energy or longer wavelength colors. They stimulate the Sympathetic Nervous System to improve fusion and binocularity.
- Blue or Violet are higher energy or shorter wavelength colors. They stimulate the Parasympathetic Nervous System. These colors can help to reduce adrenaline production, which then reduces anxiety and stress.
- Green and Yellow are wavelengths in the middle frequencies. They are physiological stabilizers and detoxifiers for chronic (long term) or degenerative health issues.
Phototherapy uses specific light colors, (frequencies and wavelengths) in order to improve specific centers in the brain that regulate neuro-chemical, hormonal, and electrical balances. These centers regulate and affect body functions.
Phototherapy Connects the Eyes and Brain
As stated above, the retina of the eyes are part of the brain. A large part of the brain is involved in vision and in coordinating vision with the other senses, including balance, hearing, and proprioception. The direct connection between the eye and the brain is the reason that light therapy through the visual system is so effective in changing brain function.
Syntonic Light Therapy uses frequencies of colored light to access the regulatory centers to help restore balance in the body’s sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
The Autonomic Nervous System, also called the involuntary nervous system, is the part of the brain that enables us to do things automatically, without having to think about it, such as heart rate and breathing. It is divided into 2 parts, the Sympathetic Nervous System and the Parasympathetic Nervous System.
The Sympathetic Nervous system is for Fight or Flight. It 'kicks in' when someone is in a stressful situation, such as trying to stop a car on ice or when someone threatening is coming toward you. The following occurs:
- Your pupils dilate (get bigger) in order to bring in more light.
- Your eyes diverge to bring in more visual information.
- The lens in the eyes relaxes, so it doesn’t focus on things that close, like reading material.
- Your pulse goes up
- Your blood pressure and blood sugar levels go up.
The Parasympathetic Nervous system is for Rest and Digest. It controls how you are normally, in a non-stressful situation. That’s called Homeostasis.
- The pupils constrict (get smaller)
- You can focus on things at near, for example for reading or seeing the computer.
- Your eyes can point in toward reading material or a screen.
- Your blood pressure and blood sugar goes down.
Light focuses onto the back part of the eye, the retina. It then goes to the optic nerve. and ultimately to the brain. The retina is actually brain tissue and that’s why light therapy is so effective.
About Our Syntonic Phototherapy Program
Syntonic Phototherapy is done primarily at home, and patients are usually seen each week during the therapy course. Patients wear specific prescribed colored filter goggles while looking at a light source for roughly 15-20 minutes per session, about 4-6 times per week. At times, Syntonic Phototherapy is done as a single, standalone treatment, but it is often combined with Vision Therapy to reinforce and maintain long term benefits. When used in conjunction with Vision Therapy, results usually occur more quickly and facilitate the effectiveness of therapy. At times, Syntonic Phototherapy works to speed up Vision Therapy and reduces the amount of time in therapy.
Visual conditions that can benefit from phototherapy
Syntonic Phototherapy is used as a primary or support treatment for the following visual problems:
- Accommodative Dysfunctions (physical focusing disorders)
- Vergence Dysfunctions - how the two eyes work together as a team, Converging (pointing in), as in looking toward a book or screen, and Diverging (pointing straight, as in looking at the blackboard in school.
- Oculomotor Dysfunction - how the two eyes track, or course across a page of print or on the computer.
- Visual Attention Deficits - difficulty in maintaining concentration
- Vision-Related Learning Problems and behavioral challenges - vision problems that make reading and learning more difficult
- Delayed visual processing speed - how we make sense of what we are seeing.
- Visual Discrimination and other visual information processing challenges
- Constricted functional visual fields associated with visual stress, emotional or physical trauma, brain injuries, binocular suppression, and some degenerative ocular disorders
Syntonic Phototherapy is prescribed for patients who have
- Fluctuating blurry vision
- An eye that turns in or out relative to the other (Strabismus) This is often mislabeled as a ‘lazy eye’.
- Double vision
- Asthenopia or general eye fatigue
- Glare, light sensitivity, and difficulty with night vision
- Reduced depth perception
- Poor concentration or short attention span
- Reading challenges and reduced academic performance
- Reduced athletic or occupational performance
- Reduced functional peripheral vision
- History of head trauma, fevers, or ear infections
- Stress trauma (physical, mental, or emotional), chronic or severe illness, and chronic allergies
How do we identify patients that would benefit from phototherapy ?
- Patient history
- How the pupil responds
- Functional Visual Fields.
- Van Orden Star
- Ambient and Focal shift, etc.
One of the factors in identifying patients with an Autonomic Nervous System imbalance is how the pupil reacts to light. Normally, the pupil constricts (gets smaller) when someone is in bright light and dilates (gets larger) in the dark. This controls the amount of light that enters the eye. During the day, in sunlight, the pupil gets smaller. At night, or in a dark room, the pupil gets larger to let more light in.
When the doctor shines a light into the pupil, the pupil should constrict and stay constricted. When the Autonomic Nervous System is disrupted, the pupil may not constrict or constricts but cant continue to constrict. It dilates. You can think of it as not having the stamina to stay constricted (small). This inability to maintain constriction, is called a “release”. It is usually due to an imbalance in the Sympathetic NS and Parasympathetic NS.
The functional visual field is measured one eye at a time using a special instrument. Usually we measure the field using various targets: red, green, blue and white, to measure how large or small these fields are.
Four main syndromes to treat with phototherapy
History of symptoms from:
- Recent infection
- Head trauma
- Exo (outward) posture
- Convergence Insufficiency
- Enlarged blind spot
- Visual Field defects
- Oculomotor Dysfunction
- Conjunctivitis / Uveitis
- Macular Disease
- Reduces cortical or retinal swelling, inflammation, and pain
Symptoms from chronic or degenerative diseases:
- Loss of visual stamina
- Transient blur
- Eso (inward) posture
- Accommodative Insufficiency
- Low vergence recovery
- Constricted fields
- Physiological stabilizer and detoxifier
- Add for any emotional instability
- Emotional exhaustion
- Depression, mood swings
- Transient blur
- Allergies, asthma, or fluid retention
- Exo posture with fatigue
- Significant Alpha-Omega pupil
- Low vergence break and recovery
Red and Indigo filters
- Balance out the SNS / PSNS systems
- Double vision
- Transient blur
- Poor eye-hand coordination
- Reading or learning challenges
- Short attention span
- Reduced depth perception
- Poor fusion
- Breaks synaptic resistance in cell membranes to overcome binocular suppression
What Is Measured In The Evaluation And During Treatment? To monitor change, we measure following before and during Syntonic Phototherapy:
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, smaller functional visual fields make 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.
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.
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 a 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; a balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. Once the 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.