Let’s all get small!

It’s a Steve Martin routine and the name of one of his albums from 1977.

For me as a kid growing up in the early 60’s it was far more than that.

Ever push on your eyes to create fireworks? As a youngster in Vt. We didn’t have much entertainment and I was still too young to use my right hand to distract myself, although that would come later and lots.

What you get when you press on your eyes are called “phosphenes”. They result from pressure in the interior of the eyeball, which causes nerves in the retina to fire. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between that and a real image, and it interprets the signals as flashes of color.

The same effect causes you to “see stars” when you’re whacked on the head. The change in pressure causes the nerves to fire.

Scientists have studied this for quite some time, though not quite so boldly as Isaac Newton, who pressed on his eyeball with a dagger to see the pretty colors.

The other ‘entertainment’ for me was getting small.

I could change my reality by staring at a fixed point long enough. The view would flip over to one similar to looking out the wrong end of a pair of binoculars.

I found this:

By Gillian Fournier

A neurological disorder in which objects appear small and far away; the subject perceives him- or herself as bigger than usual. Micropsia is the opposite of macropsia, and can be caused by optical distortion, eye conditions, migraines, epilepsy, or psychoactive drugs. Another name for the syndrome is Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.

The issue is typically temporary in nature. Sometimes it is caused by epilepsy or Epstein-Barr virus. The main group of people affected by this condition are children between 5-10 years of age.

Example: The patient reports episodes in which the entire world looks shrunken, “like looking through the wrong end of binoculars.”

Yep- that was me. I could do it for hours and it was pretty neat. This popped up too:

Micropsia is a change in visual perception caused by swelling in the corneal areas of the eye. In general, those with micropsia perceive objects as much smaller than their actual size. The condition has also been called Alice In Wonderland Syndrome, and the effect is sometimes given the fanciful name of Lilliput sight after the novel Gulliver’s Travels.

Micropsia is usually a temporary condition that can be caused by several factors. Some types of epilepsy have been known to cause visual distortion. The onset of migraine headaches may be marked by micropsia. In addition, swelling caused by the Epstein-Barr virus has been linked to episodes of micropsia.

Children between the ages of five and ten seem particularly prone to micropsia, as well as macropsia, which causes things to appear bigger than they are. These symptoms, which can prove extremely distressing, may lead to panic or severe disturbance in young children.

I never recall being panicked as a young child. I do recall when I was older, in my twenties, having panic attacks where this syndrome would manifest itself. I would get so small that I couldn’t effectively navigate my environment. Couldn’t reach doorknobs, that sort of thing. Now that is really getting small!

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About James Rising

A recovering radio addict wrestles with the written word.
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