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Posted on 10-20-2015

75th annual Middle Atlantic Optometric Congress

Just back from the 75th annual Middle Atlantic Optometric Congress in Pittsburgh, PA. I have been honored to speak at this meeting almost every year for the past 10 years. This year I spoke about communicating with the public about strabismus surgery and vision therapy. This year's meeting drew attendees from several states as well as Canada and New Zealand, who enjoyed lectures from Dr. Gregory Kitchener (Cincinnati, OH), Dr. Paul Harris and Dr. Marie Brodack (Southern College of Optometry, Memphis, TN) and Dr. David Cook (Atlanta, GA).

This year's keynote speaker was Dr. Jan Richard Bruenech (pictured below) from Norway, who specializes in researching the microscopic structure of the muscles responsible for controlling eye movements. Dr. Bruenech's groundbreaking research provides anatomical evidence that eye muscle surgery, as it is currently being done (which is basically the same way it has been done for over a hundred years), should almost always be a last resort, not a first one. Behavioral optometry has held this belief since its inception in the 1930s. Dr. Bruenech is a brilliant and dedicated researcher and an enthusiastic and entertaining lecturer who speaks across the globe. We were fortunate to have him address our meeting.

Dr. Bruenech rediscovered specialized fibers within each eye muscle, which are critical in communicating with the brain about precisely where the eyes are pointing. These fibers are permanently destroyed during eye muscle surgery. Dr. Bruenech’s work also uncovered, for the first time, the true structure of the external eye muscles (those cut to “straighten” the eyes). Each eye muscle has been found to be made up of four distinct smaller muscles. All of this research is direct unassailable evidence that eye muscle surgery has been done under outdated assumptions of how the muscles work and how they are “constructed.”  Hopefully surgeons will take Dr. Bruenech’s work to heart and rethink when and how they perform eye muscle surgery. This can only lead to better outcomes for all concerned. Dr. Bruenech was very clear that vision therapy is an excellent way to stimulate and improve the function of the eye muscles and the entire visual system. Behavioral optometrists are excited about and grateful for the excellent work of Dr. Bruenech who is in turn grateful for the work that behavioral optometry is doing to help people use their visual systems with greater success.

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