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'Brain Glasses' Use Light To Improve Brain Function For Concussion Victims, People With Disabilities

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Look at the shot of the Chicago skyline below.

Blurred Skyline
(Credit: CBS 2)

It's a sight people some people might see in real life, due to problems with how their brains process what is in front of them. Such a disconnect could be caused by concussions or learning disabilities, among other things.

But as CBS 2's Lauren Victory reported Monday, an Illinois doctor's invention geared toward correcting the issue is gaining worldwide attention.

A little over three and a half years ago, small business consultant Buffy Brasile suffered a concussion.

"I could not even hear soft music playing," Brasile said. "It was such a disruption to me."

The concussion forced Brasile to fall back on an old craft – doing hair.

"I couldn't drive a car, I couldn't read, and I couldn't do simple math," she said.

Years of practicing her first love, soccer, ended abruptly one fateful day as coach of an angry player.

"He just turned to me, lined up and drilled me with a soccer ball," she said. "And I brought my head back around, it was like fog."

She was sidelined with a brain injury that intensified as months went by. She felt as if she were looking out from beside her head.

"I am not perceiving reality accurately. Therefore, I am not safe. Therefore, we probably shouldn't be here," Brasile said.

She was spiraling until she met Dr. Deborah Zelinsky, research director at the Northbrook-based Mind-Eye Institute.

"The science I'm using is neurophotonics," Zelinsky explained. "'Neuro' means brain, 'photonics' means light - so it's using light to affect brain function."

The optometrist demonstrated by using her Z-Bell test, looking for synchronization between eye and ear. She rang a bell in front of Victory's face and had Victory raise her index finger to indicate where the bell was.

Victory's brain could sense the bell's location easily – but when glass bent the light coming through her eyelids, that quickly changed.

And that is how Brasile felt every day. Until Dr. Zelinsky prescribed her some brain glasses.

"It's shaped differently," Zelinsky said. "It's designed to bend the light more to the edges of the eyes."

Several brain glasses patients are kids struggling in school.

"It leads to not having to deplete energy trying to figure out where a sound is coming from," Zelinsky said. "If a teacher is talking and you're trying to take notes, and you can't find where they're talking from, you can't watch them and listen."

In 2013, Dr. Zelinsky pushed for the Illinois House of Representatives to pass a bill that would start a vision and hearing-related pilot program in schools.

Required Z-bell testing could catch disabilities earlier, Zelinsky argued.

The state House did pass the bill by a vote of 111-1. But it never became law, because state senators said they needed to see more research.

Back at the salon, Brasile hopes to bend an ear or two.

"I don't want other people to give up," she said.

So she is sharing her literally unimaginable road to recovery through brain glasses.

"If it was not for Dr. Zelinsky, I would not be here right now telling this story," Brasile said.

Brasile said wearing her brain glasses also somehow allows her no longer to need medication for bipolar disorder.

Other patients reported their headaches, narcolepsy, and bad eating habits disappeared.

Dr. Zelinsky is studying the exact science behind the side effects.

Brain glasses can cause thousands of dollars.

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