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Dr. Lloyd's blog has now been retired. We appreciate all the wisdom and support Dr. Lloyd has brought to the WebMD community throughout the years.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Can YOU See in 3-D?

3-D movies are making a comeback in a big way.

Earlier this year Brendan Fraser produced and starred in a remake of ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’. A special version screened in 3-D at IMAX theaters and was instantly declared, “The best and most spectacular 3-D movie ever made”. Nice buzz. (Personal note: Last week I got to see this film on a 5 inch screen while flying across the country. Can’t say I was nearly as impressed with it in tiny 2-D!)

Now the Disney animators are taking a shot at 3-D with their new release “Bolt”.

So, how do the eyes see in 3-D? Can you see in 3-D?

First of all, 3-D is a manmade construct. Think of it as a marketing term to describe the visual mechanics of stereopsis. The total visual input into each eye is different. Stereopsis is the product of integrating what the two (different) eyes see.

You really need both eyes to appreciate stereopsis because it represents the DIFFERENCE between what the two eyes are seeing…a microscopic difference. For example, those tossaway 3-D specs have different colored lenses (often red/green) to project the image at different areas of the retina. The goggles INTENSIFY the difference between what the two eyes experience. Guess what? Even if you are colorblind the 3-D specs should still work!

Don’t confuse 3-D with depth perception. Depth perception helps you pick the best apple in the basket on your first attempt. Many people with ONE EYE exhibit excellent depth perception. Subtle components to the visual image (color, texture, shading, shadows, and more) communicate to the visual cortex (in the brain) not only WHAT the object is, but its position with relationship to other elements of that same image.

I have had patients who underwent surgical removal of one eye for various reasons. Some (not all) of these people could still pass the tests for stereo vision, depth perception and distance estimation. Perhaps some of these skills are LEARNED…you get better over time. To date there are no hard scientific explanations to account for this not-uncommon phenomenon.

The holidays offer plenty of time to take in a movie. If your children choose to go see ‘Bolt’ in 3-D (which means you will be attending the movie as well) take time to experiment with the screen images – cover one eye, etc. and share your 3-D experience with us over at our WebMD Vision & Eye Disorders message board.

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Posted by: Bill Lloyd MD at 1:35 am


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