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Optical College to Receive $20M Donation

The gift will be divided over five years.

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TUCSON, AZ – The University of Arizona College of Optical Sciences has received a $20 million pledge to support 10 new endowed faculty positions.

The gift comes from the college’s founding dean, Professor Emeritus James C. Wyant, and his family. It is the largest gift for endowed faculty chair positions in the university’s history, according to a press release.

“This is an incredible, enabling moment for the College of Optical Sciences, giving us an unprecedented opportunity to advance the rapidly expanding ways that optics and photonics can improve our lives,” said Thomas L. Koch, dean of the College of Optical Sciences.

The gift will be received over five years.

UA President Robert C. Robbins said, “Jim Wyant’s leadership, vision and support for students has already had an incredible impact on the UA College of Optical Sciences, and his legacy is one of the main reasons why the UA is a global leader in optics and photonics. We are all very grateful to Dr. Wyant and his family for their exemplary leadership and extraordinary generosity that will advance one of the university’s top priorities.”

He added that the gift “will support faculty and enhance our students’ experience by enabling an environment that fosters leadership, learning, collaboration and connections, and it will help shape the success of UA students far into the future.”

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Wyant has co-founded Tucson-based businesses in optics such as WYKO Corp. and  4D Technology Corp.

Wyant said, “I am especially grateful to the university for its incredible flexibility when I was partway through my teaching career and wanted to start a company (WYKO). The financial success of that business has made these gifts possible.”

The leading reason for his gifts, he said, is to “ensure a pathway for the College of Optical Sciences to achieve even greater prominence and success in its education and research mission.”

In 2013, Wyant made a historic $10 million gift to the college for graduate student scholarships in a campaign called FoTO, an acronym for Friends of Tucson Optics. As a result of his initial gift, more than 250 additional donors contributed and 30 first-year graduate student scholarship endowments were established, each bearing the name of a donor.

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Smoking May Cause Loss of Color Vision, Study Suggests

The findings indicated significant changes in red-green and blue-yellow color vision.

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Smoking more than 20 cigarettes a day can damage your vision, researchers have found.

The study included 71 healthy people who smoked fewer than 15 cigarettes in their lives and 63 who smoked more than 20 cigarettes a day, were diagnosed with tobacco addiction and reported no attempts to stop smoking. The participants were between the ages of 25 and 45 and had normal or corrected-to-normal vision as measured by standard visual acuity charts, according to a Rutgers press release.

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The researchers looked at how participants discriminated contrast levels (subtle differences in shading) and colors while seated 59 inches from a 19-inch cathode-ray tube monitor that displayed stimuli while researchers monitored both eyes simultaneously.

The findings indicated significant changes in the smokers’ red-green and blue-yellow color vision, which suggests that consuming substances with neurotoxic chemicals, such as those in cigarettes, may cause overall color vision loss. They also found that the heavy smokers had a reduced ability to discriminate contrasts and colors when compared to the non-smokers.

“Cigarette smoke consists of numerous compounds that are harmful to health, and it has been linked to a reduction in the thickness of layers in the brain, and to brain lesions, involving areas such as the frontal lobe, which plays a role in voluntary movement and control of thinking, and a decrease in activity in the area of the brain that processes vision,” said co-author Steven Silverstein, director of research at Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care.

“Previous studies have pointed to long-term smoking as doubling the risk for age-related macular degeneration and as a factor causing lens yellowing and inflammation. Our results indicate that excessive use of cigarettes, or chronic exposure to their compounds, affects visual discrimination, supporting the existence of overall deficits in visual processing with tobacco addiction.”

The research appears in the journal Psychiatry Research.

Although the research did not give a physiological explanation for the results, Silverstein said that since nicotine and smoking harm the vascular system, the study suggests they also damage blood vessels and neurons in the retina.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 34.3 million adults in the U.S. currently smoke cigarettes and that more than 16 million live with a smoking-related disease, many of which affect the cardiovascular system.

Silverstein said the findings also suggest that research into visual processing impairments in other groups of people, such as those with schizophrenia who often smoke heavily, should take into account their smoking rate or independently examine smokers versus non-smokers.

The study was made available online in November 2018 ahead of final publication in print in January 2019

The study was conducted by researchers from the Perception, Neuroscience and Behavior Laboratory in Brazil with Silverstein as a consultant.

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Blue Light Filters Disappoint in New Study

They didn’t reduce the symptoms of digital eyestrain.

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A new study suggests that blue light filters aren’t particularly useful in quelling the symptoms of digital eyestrain.

Researchers compared the effectiveness of blue-blocking filters and equiluminant neutral density filters, Healio reports. They published their study in the journal in Optometry and Vision Science.

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They found no difference in the effectiveness of the two at reducing symptoms of digital eyestrain.

“These results do not support the use of blue-blocking filters for the treatment of digital eyestrain,” study co-author Mark Rosenfield was quoted saying.

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Healio reports that blue-blocking filters “were not shown to reduce any apparent symptoms” of digital eyestrain.

Rosenfield acknowledged that there is “no physiological mechanism at the present time that links blue light with eyestrain.” But he said blue light may interfere with circadian rhythms and disrupt the ability to fall asleep.

Read more at Healio

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Meditation Might Help Treat a Common Eye Disease, Study Suggests

It could serve as an adjunct to medications.

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Meditation may be helpful in treating glaucoma, a new study suggests.

The research found that a short course of mindfulness-based stress reduction by meditation reduced intraocular pressure, normalized stress biomarkers and positively modified gene expression in patients with primary-open angle glaucoma, the American Optometric Association reports.

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The research was published in the Journal of Glaucoma. It suggests a possible role for meditation as an adjunctive clinical therapy.

The findings “provide tantalizing insight about a therapeutic option that may accompany tried-and-true pharmaceuticals, as well as hint at the role stress may play in glaucoma,” according to AOA.

Researchers “hope this latest study can validate another option for helping prevent irreversible optic nerve head damage.”

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For the study, researchers enrolled 90 primary-open angle glaucoma patients and directed a study group to 21 days of daily, hour-long mindfulness meditation under the supervision of a certified meditation teacher.

The researchers said future studies should address how long the changes last and whether mindfulness meditation helps visual field function over time.

Read more at the AOA

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