Dr. Rick Graebe, a behavioral optometrist in Versailles, is a visual specialist who thinks outside the box, but even he was skeptical of syntonic-photo therapy or light therapy.
Here’s how it works: Patients look down a device called a syntonizer, a two-and-a-half foot tube with a light bulb at the bottom equipped with different filters.
Proponents claim that the filtered light alters photo receptors in brain cells that boost a patient’s visual system.
“Nobody was a bigger skeptic than me,” Dr. Graebe said.
Since 1990, Dr. Graebe has practiced Visual Therapy, which is a kind of physical therapy for the eyes, mind and body that treats the entire visual system.
When he heard about syntonic-photo therapy, it sounded “too far out there.”
Despite his skepticism, his peers told him success story after success story treating migraines, lazy eye and other visual issues.
At the behest of one colleague, Dr. Graebe attended an international syntonic-photo therapy conference in Florida. If he didn’t like the conference, his colleague suggested, he could make it a beach vacation instead.
The science began to persuade Dr. Graebe, but he remained skeptical. Finally, when he observed that light therapy could change a person’s autonomic nervous system, he made it part of his Visual Therapy protocol.
The autonomic nervous system governs reactions beyond a person’s control such as heart rate and pupil dilation.
“This isn’t something like, ‘Oh, this helped my Aunt Susie,’” Dr. Graebe said.
“This is not just anecdotal. Change in your pupil is not something you can fake.”
Many children suffer academically because their autonomic nervous system is in a constant state of “fight or flight.” These children will usually have constricted fields when tested by Dr. Graebe, and their pupils are perpetually enlarged.
Pupils should only expand when they are in reduced illumination or when someone is in a heightened excitability state or danger.
When someone’s pupils are continuously enlarged, it creates tunnel vision and ratchets up stress levels.
Light therapy can balance the autonomic nervous system, which will be evidenced when pupils shrink to a normal level.
This shrinking of pupils is what ultimately convinced Dr. Graebe. Because people cannot control the size of their pupils, light therapy was making an impact.
While witnessing improvement in his patients who used the therapy, Dr. Graebe reported improvements in himself – fewer headaches, less stress.
“I do it myself,” Dr. Graebe said. “I’ve calmed down and this has helped me have fewer head and body aches.”