When neuroscientist Susan Barry was fifty years old, she took an unforgettable trip to Manhattan. As she emerged from the dim light of the subway into the sunshine, she saw a view of the city that she had witnessed many times in the past but now saw in an astonishingly new way. Skyscrapers on street corners appeared to loom out toward her like the bows of giant ships. Tree branches projected upward and outward, enclosing and commanding palpable volumes of space. Leaves created intricate mosaics in 3D. With each glance, she experienced the deliriously novel sense of immersion in a three dimensional world. Barry had been cross-eyed and stereoblind since early infancy. After half a century of perceiving her surroundings as flat and compressed, on that day she was seeing Manhattan in stereo depth for first time in her life. As a neuroscientist, she understood just how extraordinary this transformation was, not only for herself but for the scientific understanding of the human brain.
The Perseus Books Group
August 19, 2010
About the author
Susan R. Barry is a professor of neurobiology in the Department of Biological Sciences at Mount Holyoke College. She speaks regularly to scientists, eye doctors, and educators on the topic of neuronal plasticity. She has been featured on NPR and in a New Yorker article by renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks entitled "Stereo Sue." She and her husband have two grown children and live in South Hadley, Massachusetts.