Fringe Fact or Fiction? Is EYEPORT the Real Thing?

By Paddy Kamen

Jacob Liberman was concerned that he might be kicked out of optometry college after completing his second year — after all he was just getting by with the lowest passing grades. It was nothing new for him to do poorly in school; although he applied himself, every time he had to read for any length of time he fell asleep. This had been going on for most of his life and he didn’t expect it to change.

Then, as part of his optometric training, Liberman underwent a comprehensive vision exam. He was told that his eyes were not working together properly and sent home with a vision training device. “I didn’t do anything with it right away, and that afternoon I fell asleep again while reading,” he recalls. “When I woke up, the first thing I saw was the vision training unit so I got up and used it for five minutes. Afterwards I read for an hour with great comprehension and no distractibility. This was so profoundly moving that I started crying because I always thought I was stupid. But after just two months of doing the training, I made the dean’s list almost every quarter until l graduated. Vision training took me from being a less-than-average student to one of the best in the class, and dramatically changed my life.”

Liberman earned a Doctorate of Optometry in 1973 from Southern College of Optometry, and a Ph.D. in Vision Science in 1986 from The College of Syntonic Optometry. He has written  three books – Light: Medicine of the Future, Take Off Your Glasses and See, and Wisdom From an Empty Mind – and invented the EYEPORT Vision Training System. The latter is designed to improve vision, academic, and sports performance via a set of five visual exercises that teach, as Liberman puts it, “the brain to function more effectively.” The  device has been FDA-cleared and the subject of four peer-reviewed published studies, he says.

According to Liberman, most people can benefit from using the EYEPORT because they spend so much time reading and staring at computer screens. He feels vision training can improve visual performance and protect our eyes from the unnatural task of looking at computers all day in the same way that tennis shoes improve athletic performance and protect our feet while walking on synthetic surfaces. “The world’s biggest epidemic is eyesight deterioration. We must do something, not only to prevent that deterioration but also to optimize performance. Although eyeglasses improve acuity, they don’t prevent vision problems from getting worse. Thank goodness we have eyeglasses for those that need them. However, we also need to deal with the cause of vision problems, not just the effects.”

Although Liberman wore glasses for nine years, he hasn’t done so since training his eyes in 1976. Now, at age 63, he has a significant amount of astigmatism but sees well at both near and distance. This is because vision occurs in consciousness and is not entirely dependent on the mechanics of eyes, he explains.

Liberman says his device helps people learn to see effortlessly.

“Most people are in the habit of trying too hard. They think they have to work their eyes instead of allowing the eyes to work for them. Using the EYEPORT lets you experience how easy or hard your eyes are working and trains them to function more fluidly. The user’s brain notices a lack of congruity with the way they have always used their eyes and in some way that causes the brain to change the way it works.”

“Some scientists might dismiss this logic,” he allows. “However, 35 years ago I experienced a 300 per cent improvement with no change in my eyeglass prescription. I still have astigmatism and no eye doctor will say I should be able to see as well as I do.”

Developmental optometry is so called because it treats disorders (like strabismus and amblyopia) that can occur in the course of human development, usually in childhood. The field was formerly known as pediatric optometry but the name was changed to reflect the fact that problems not corrected in childhood can still be addressed  in adults. Developmental or behavioural optometrists prescribe vision training for children with attention, reading and learning-related vision problems, as well as athletes seeking a competitive edge, people experiencing eyestrain, and individuals dealing with cognitive and neurological challenges due to traumatic brain injury.

According to Debbie Luk, an optometrist who specializes in developmental vision training inCalgary, the field has moved from the fringes of acceptability to a mainstream specialty within optometry. “It is taught in all American colleges of optometry but isn’t yet part of the curriculum at our two Canadian colleges at University of Waterloo and University of Montreal,” she notes.

Luk wasn’t aware of EYEPORT, but after checking out the Liberman website she noted that she uses a similar system. “This is a good tool to use for in-office training, but for home therapy I would prescribe the Brock String exercise, invented by Dr. Fred Brock. It’s important to note that optometric vision therapy involves the use of a variety of exercises that enhance eye tracking, eye focusing and eye teaming skills. So we cannot treat someone solely with one type of exercise.”

It appears that Liberman’s work, while nesting within developmental optometry, is still somewhat on the fringe due to his apparent position that the EYEPORT can ‘do it all’.

Liberman acknowledges that he doesn’t ‘speak the same language’ as the majority of optometrists or vision scientists. “It can take a long time for scientists to realize they don’t understand the mysteries of life. When I don’t understand something it drives me to do research, whereas conventional science often dismisses truths that don’t fit within the existing paradigm. The EYEPORT speaks for itself. Over 1,000 optometrists are using it and those who use it understand and appreciate the results. My goal has always been to develop something that can help people and has real science behind it.”

There’s no doubting Jacob Liberman’s passion for his product. Is it possible that just as developmental optometry was a fringe specialty not too long ago that the EYEPORT represents the way of the future? Only time will tell.