Eyes see you: How your eyes can read your neighbor’s mind

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Photo credit: mari lezhava


Twenty years ago, a team of scientists at the University of Cambridge developed a test of ‘cognitive empathy’ called the ‘Reading the Mind in the Eyes’ Test (or the Eyes Test, for short). This revealed that people can rapidly interpret what another person is thinking or feeling from looking at their eyes alone. It also showed that some of us are better at this than others, and that women on average score better on this test than men.

Now, the same team, working with a genetics company along with scientists from France, Australia and the Netherlands, report results from a new study of performance on this test in 89,000 people across the world. The results confirmed that women on average do indeed score better on this test.

More importantly, the team confirmed that our genes influence performance on the Eyes Test, and went further to identify genetic variants on chromosome 3 in women that are associated with their ability to “read the mind in the eyes.”

The study was led by Varun Warrier, a Cambridge PhD student, and Professors Simon Baron-Cohen, Director of the Autism Research Centre at the University of Cambridge, and Thomas Bourgeron, of the University Paris Diderot and the Institut Pasteur.

“This new study demonstrates that empathy is partly genetic, but we should not lose sight of other important social factors such as early upbringing and postnatal experience,” Professor Bourgeron said.

Our DNA influences our ability to read a person’s thoughts and emotions from looking at their eyes, as suggested by the new study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.


University of Cambridge. (2017, June 7). Genes influence ability to read a person’s mind from their eyes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 15, 2017 from Science Daily.

Working on a global mission to improve children’s eyesight

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Four years ago, Essilor, the market leader in ophthalmic optics with the mission to improve lives by improving sight, created dedicated teams to reach the 2.5 billion people across the globe who don’t have access to the vision correction they need. Since then, Essilor has launched and scaled-up new inclusive business models and deployed many non-profit initiatives to improve access to vision care in developing (and developed) nations.


Expanding children’s access to eye health services

Through a global coalition of over 50 multi-sector partners co-founded by the Brien Holden Vision Institute and Essilor’s strategic giving fund Vision For Life in 2016, Our Children’s Vision was born to fulfill the idea that by mobilizing the resources, networks and know-how of a range of partners, from vision care providers, governments and civil societies to not-for-profit organizations, more could be done to benefit the lives of millions of children across the world. Putting collaboration into action, its partners have enabled the screening of 10 million children in one year, improving health and learning potential. Beyond impacting individual lives, Our Children’s Vision also strives to bring long-lasting change through policies impacting on local, regional, or national levels. Guidelines on integrating school eye health programs into general health programs were published in 2016. Already governments in Cambodia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe have approved policies putting vision health within national school health programs.

“Our Children’s Vision is driven by partners who have long been active in visual health and who bring their experience, expertise, and desire to have a long-term impact,” said Kovin Naidoo, CEO of Brien Holden Vision Institute and Our Children’s Vision Campaign Director.


Investing to improve children’s vision

Essilor Vision Foundation and Vision For Life have expanded range of initiatives into 20 countries, reaching 600,000 children in 2016. These countries include India, Africa, Morocco, Laos, and Myanmar, among others. The Foundation was able to conduct vision care at medical health camps involving volunteer doctors, dentists, physicians, and optometrists. Many affected individuals benefited from eye tests and corrective glasses or sunglasses, including many older villagers for whom preserving visual health is vital for their continuing quality of life.


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Our Children’s Vision

When tobacco smoke gets in your eyes

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It’s a well-known fact that smoking increases risks for certain eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, and vision loss. Since 2015, promotional campaigns appear across the U.S. to warn smokers of the health risks of tobacco use and to encourage them to quit. Studies show that smokers are twice as likely to develop macular degeneration compared with a nonsmoker, while they are two to three times more likely to develop cataracts compared with a nonsmoker. A full, dilated eye exam is recommended as AMD often has no early symptoms. Worldwide, there are about 1.3 billion tobacco users, and every year about 6 million people around the world die from tobacco use. In the U.S. alone, extensive efforts are being implemented to reduce tobacco use despite the fact that cigarette smoking is declining, because the use of tobacco products has remained unchanged or has increased in recent years.

World No Tobacco Day 2017

The theme for World No Tobacco Day, 31 May 2017, is “Tobacco — a threat to development.” According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it will propose measures that governments and the public should take to promote health and development by confronting the global tobacco crisis. These include banning marketing and advertising of tobacco, promoting plain packaging of tobacco products, raising excise taxes, and making indoor public places and workplaces smoke-free. Among the campaign’s main focus is tobacco’s health and economic costs wherein countries have committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to implement the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), initially carried out in 2005, and reduce premature death by one-third from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) by 2030. Additional concerns emphasize the environmental impact of tobacco waste and emissions, as well as, its various threats to women, children, and livelihoods, as around 860 million adult smokers live in low- and middle-income countries.


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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – CDC.gov (www.cdc.gov) is an online source for credible health information and is the official Web site of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Blind people “see” through brain maps

Eyezone Blog-Blind people have brain map for 'visual' observations too

Is what you’re looking at an object, a face, or a tree? When processing visual input, our brain uses different areas to recognize faces, body parts, scenes, and objects. Scientists at KU Leuven (University of Leuven), Belgium, have now shown that people who were born blind use a ‘brain map’ with a very similar layout to distinguish between these same categories.

Our brain only needs a split second to determine what we’re seeing. The area in our brain that can categorize these visual observations so quickly is the so-called ventral-temporal cortex, the visual brain. Like a map, this region is divided into smaller regions, each of which recognizes a particular category of observations — faces, body parts, scenes, and objects.

Scientists have long wondered whether we’re born with this map, or whether its development relies on the visual input that we receive.

To answer this question, researchers from the KU Leuven Laboratory for Biological Psychology conducted an experiment with people who were born blind — some of them even without eyeballs — and have therefore never processed any visual information.

They asked the blind participants to listen to sounds from four categories: laughing, kissing, and lip smacking for faces; hand clapping and footsteps for body parts; forest and beach sounds for scenes; and a clock, washing machine, and car for objects. Meanwhile, a scanner measured the activity in their visual brain.

“We found that blind individuals also use the map in the visual brain,” Professor Hans Op de Beeck from the KU Leuven Laboratory of Biological Psychology explains. “Their visual brain responds in a different way to each category. This means that blind people, too, use this part of the brain to differentiate between categories, even though they’ve never had any visual input. And the layout of their map is largely the same as that of sighted people. This means that visual experience is not required to develop category selectivity in the visual brain.”

But these findings also raise new questions. For one thing, sounds are very different from visual input such as images and videos, so what exactly is being processed in blind people’s visual brain? Further research will have to show.


KU Leuven. (2017, May 17). Blind people have brain map for ‘visual’ observations too. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 24, 2017.

Reduce the effects of AMD with quality sunglasses

Guest post by Sally Collins

Eyezone Blog-Reduce the effects of AMD with quality sunglasses-Sally Collins

The eyewear market in the Middle East is predicted to hit US$5.86 billion by 2023. The UAE leads the way, with the huge demand for luxury sunglasses being key to the UAE’s dominance. But sunglasses are much more than just a luxury fashion item. They are essential when it comes to protecting your vision. UV and blue light damage the retina’s pigment cells, which accelerates conditions like age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Yet, by wearing a quality pair of sunglasses, it’s possible to filter out these types of radiation. Furthermore, those suffering from AMD should wear protective sunglasses not only outdoors, but also sometimes indoors, too.

What is AMD?

AMD causes approximately 5% of blindness worldwide, with experts predicting it will affect 196 million people by 2020. The major risk factors for AMD are age, genetics, and smoking. Studies have also looked into the effect of diet, light exposure, and cardiovascular disease. Macular degeneration can alter your central vision and lead to a loss of sharp vision.

Benefits of wearing sunglasses

Extreme sensitivity to glare is a frequent symptom of AMD. Glare caused by sunlight, artificial light, and reflections can be particularly harsh for those with this progressive condition. Sunglasses with polarized lenses can help to significantly reduce glare and by regularly wearing quality eye protection will provide comfort, while helping to slow down any deterioration of vision and prevent AMD from developing.

  • Protection: Exposure to ultraviolet light can damage the cornea, eyelids, the lens and parts of the retina. Therefore, it’s important that lenses provide 100% protection from UV-A and UV-B light.
  • Visibility: The darker the lens, the harder it is to see clearly, especially for people with AMD. So, try different shades of darkness to find out which one does not compromise your visibility.
  • Glare: Using a special filter, a polarized lens helps remove glare reflected from surfaces like water, the road and even the hood of a car. Reduced glare means better visibility and clarity, and stops the eyes from feeling tired.
  • Clarity: Macular degeneration affects sharp, detailed vision. Therefore, you should look for sunglasses with quality lenses. Check that there’s no distortion or blurred images when you look through the lenses.
  • Enhanced contrast: The ability to distinguish contrast reduces with AMD. However, some tinted lenses offer better contrast. It’s generally recommended that people with AMD choose orange and yellow lenses. A blue blocker lens is also helpful to reduce glare, while not making everything too dark. However, you should avoid driving with blue blocker lenses as it can make it difficult to distinguish traffic light signal colors.

Improve your eye health

Sunglasses offer a number of benefits from providing clarity, enhancing contrast and reducing glare. Ask your vision specialist to help you decide which is the best color, shade, and type of lens material for you and your eyes. Remember, slowing AMD and even preventing the condition from developing starts by making healthy lifestyle choices. So, eat well, avoid pollutants and wear quality sunglasses to help you enjoy better eye health for longer.

About the author: Sally Collins is a professional freelance writer with many years experience across many different areas. She made the move to freelancing from a stressful corporate job and loves the work-life balance it offers her. When not at work, Sally enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family and travelling as much as possible.

70th World Health Assembly

Eyezone Blog-70th World Health Assembly-IAPB-2017

Member State Side Event

Towards Universal Eye Health: Taking stock of progress against the Global Action Plan – what’s working and where to from here?

Thursday 25 May 2017
12.30pm – 2.00pm
Room XXIV (24), Palais des Nations, Geneva

Lunch and refreshments will be provided and there will be simultaneous translation in English, French, Russian, Spanish, Chinese and Arabic.

Organised by:

The delegations of Australia, Austria, Burkina Faso, China, Cook Islands, Czech Republic, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Kenya, Malta, Pakistan, Tonga, The Fred Hollows Foundation, International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness and Orbis International.

Complementing the progress report scheduled for the 70th World Health Assembly on Universal eye health: a global action plan 2014 – 2019, the objectives of the side event will be to:

  • take stock on the progress made since 2014
  • highlight successes and challenges in addressing avoidable blindness and vision loss;
  • demonstrate the importance of universal eye health to achieving universal health coverage and advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; and
  • discuss the next steps for preventing avoidable blindness and supporting people who are blind or vision impaired beyond 2019.


Globally, four out of five cases of blindness can be prevented or treated.

#MakeVisionCount #WHA70


Source:  IAPB

Healthy vision starts with a dilated eye exam

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Getting a comprehensive dilated eye exam is one of the best things you can do to keep your eyes healthy. In this painless procedure, an eye care professional examines your eyes to look for common vision problems and eye diseases, many of which have no early warning signs.

Different from the basic eye exam you have for glasses or contact lenses, a comprehensive dilated eye exam can help protect your sight by making sure you are seeing your best and detecting eye diseases in their early stages, before vision loss has occurred.

A comprehensive dilated eye exam includes the following:

  • Dilation—Drops are placed in your eyes to dilate, or widen, the pupils. Your eye care professional uses a special magnifying lens to examine your retina to look for signs of damage and other eye problems, such as diabetic retinopathy or age-related macular degeneration. A dilated eye exam also allows your eye care professional to check for damage to the optic nerve that occurs when a person has glaucoma. After the examination, your close-up vision may remain blurred for several hours.
  • Tonometry—This test helps to detect glaucoma by measuring eye pressure. Your eye care professional may direct a quick puff of air onto the eye, or gently apply a pressure-sensitive tip near or against the eye. Numbing drops may be applied to your eye for this test. Elevated pressure is a possible sign of glaucoma.
  • Visual field test—This test measures your side (peripheral) vision. It helps your eye care professional find out if you have lost side vision, a sign of glaucoma.
  • Visual acuity test—This eye chart test measures how well you see at various distances.

Eyezone Blog-Healthy vision starts with dilated eye exam-NEHEP

These two illustrations show how much more of the eye can be seen through dilated pupils. Your eye care professional can get a better view of the retina and optic nerve to examine them for signs of damage or disease.

To learn more about comprehensive dilated eye exams and eye health, visit http://www.nei.nih.gov/healthyeyes.

Source: NIH

Feed your eyes with these super foods

EYEZONE-Blog-Food for the eyes

For the Healthy Vision Month celebration, we are pumped up to list down six of the best foods for the eyes that you, your loved ones, or patients should look for. These fruits and vegetables are rich in essential nutrients needed to keep your eyes sharp and in shape.

Carrots are not only for bunnies. In fact, they are excellent sources of vitamins A and C, especially carotenoids which help decrease risks of eye diseases.

Oranges are rich in vitamin C and an antioxidant, too, both of which play significant roles in preventing cataracts and AMD. So, be sure to take this bitter friend of yours out for a summer smoothie.

Kale is high in lutein and zeaxanthin which help lower risks of AMD and cataracts. Other dark leafy greens like broccoli, spinach, and collards are also good antioxidants. So, you see, there’s nothing to hate on this dark leafy dude, after all.

Black-eyed peas and other legumes are good sources of zinc. They can’t sing but they can protect the eyes from the hazards of light. Bioflavonoids are also essential in protecting the retina.

Sunflower seeds help prevent eye diseases as they are full of vitamin E and zinc. You get it. They are good to snack on while doing the homework.

Nuts, well, they’re not just nuts. They are also filled with vitamin E which protects body cells from UV exposure and help reduce the risk of cataracts and AMD. Nuts are also rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids that could boost eye health.


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Marcolin Group and Rivoli Group sign a joint venture in the Middle East

Eyezone Blog-Giovanni Zoppas, CEO Marcolin Group


Marcolin Group, a worldwide leading eyewear company, announced today to have signed a joint venture agreement with Rivoli Group, one of the largest luxury retailers in the Middle East area.

The JV, named Marcolin Middle East, is 51% owned by Marcolin Group and its headquarters will be based in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. It will distribute the eyewear collections of the Marcolin’s brand portfolio: Tom Ford, Balenciaga, Ermenegildo Zegna, Montblanc, Roberto Cavalli, Tod’s, Emilio Pucci, Swarovski, Dsquared2, Diesel, Just Cavalli, Kenneth Cole, Timberland, Guess, Gant, Harley-Davidson, Marciano, Skechers and Web.

Giovanni Zoppas, CEO Marcolin Group, affirmed: “The valuable long-term distribution agreement with Rivoli Group and the strong personal relationship and collaboration developed during these years with Mr. Ramesh Prabhakar, our partner in the JV, have been further strengthened establishing this capital partnership in Middle East, which represents such a key market for the luxury, fashion and diffusion brands in our portfolio and for the future of our company.”

Ramesh Prabhakar, Vice Chairman and Managing Partner of Rivoli Group commented: “The Rivoli Group is extremely pleased with the development of the JV with Marcolin Group to service the Middle East and other specific markets. Our relationship with the Marcolin management signifies this new association and we are looking forward to further enhancing Marcolin brands presence in the markets. Our Milestones will be reached through planned distribution and innovative retailing within the Rivoli EyeZone stores.”


Google doodles the inventor of eye test

Google Doodle Ferdinand Monoyer


Today, Google gives the inventor of eye test’s 181st birthday a wink with an animated doodle. Ferdinand Monoyer (9 May 1836 – 11 July 1912), a famous French ophthalmologist developed the diopter, the unit of measurement for vision still used by eye care professionals today. The diopter measures the distance you’d have to be from the text to read it.

Most notably, Monoyer devised an eye chart called the Monoyer Chart to test visual acuity. In the chart, every row represents a different diopter, from smallest to largest. Interestingly, Monoyer’s name is hidden among the letters in the chart, too.

Source: Google