The Vision-Brain Connection: How Vision Impacts Cognitive Function

When it comes to cognitive performance, we’re all familiar with how much of a role lack of sleep and too much stress can play on how well we think and how we act. Too little sleep can leave you feeling hazy and unfocused, while too much stress or anxiety can have you feeling hopeless and unable to do the most basic of functions. 

But while keeping an eye on these areas of health and wellness are essentially preached to us from childhood and are now common knowledge, many of us are not quite as familiar with another key player in the world of cognitive performance - your vision.

An important part of how we see, interpret and react to the world around us, our vision works hand-in-hand with our brain to feed and process information that is presented to us visually. And when our vision is off or impaired or we’re not wearing the proper prescription in our favorite designer prescription eyeglasses, our cognition, AKA how we think, act and react, can therefore suffer.

If you’re one of the many among us who hasn’t been brought into the light on the role of vision in how well you think and perform, never fear. We’ll break everything down for you below with a quick explanation of the vision-brain connection as well as how visual impairments can directly affect your cognition. Keep reading to learn more!

What is the Vision-Brain Connection?

To put things as simply as possible, the vision-brain connection is the unique way that our eyes and brains are connected via a series of complicated pathways within the brain and body. Our eyes and our brains work as partners in how we actually see and interpret the world around us, and issues with either can often signal problems with the other.

When looking at something, light will reflect off of the image in front of us and into our eyes, where it is detected by light receptors, known as cones and rods. These receptors then pass the light through into our retina, where the signals are processed upside-down and flipped before traveling through the optic nerve to the brain.

What is seen through the left eye is sent to and processed within the right side of the brain and vice versa for the right eye. Once the information from what we see reaches our brains, it is then processed and interpreted. In other words, our brain attaches meaning and a necessary response to what we see.

How Can Visual Impairments Affect Cognition?

Now that we’ve gone over the basics of how the brain and our vision are intricately intertwined, let’s jump into how our vision can affect the function of our brains. We’ll start things off with a quick memory exercise - try to think back to the first time you realized that you needed to wear glasses in order to see.

If it was a childhood discovery, chances are that this may have come about due to so-called “poor” academic performance due to not being able to see the board or read your textbook. This memory exercise is the perfect example of why clear vision is so important when thinking about cognition.

When you can’t see the world clearly around you, you are limited in how your brain can interpret what you see. In addition, you are also limited by who and what you can see.

For example, if you are far-sighted and trying to read and learn without corrective lenses, it will be challenging if not impossible to see the words on paper or on a screen in front of you. And vice versa, if you are near-sighted and attempting to read and learn from something far away, you’ll be limited in what you can actually absorb.

Seeing clearly allows us to provide the most succinct and precise information to our brain that will then in turn allow us to process that information properly and more efficiently, prompting us to respond correctly.

In addition to limiting your ability to read and learn, visual impairments can also cause discomfort and pain, which can in turn affect your cognition. If you are straining to read without necessary corrective lenses, you may eventually begin to observe headaches, nausea or general exhaustion as your eyes and brain work overtime to correct what you see.

When wearing corrective lenses, your brain and eyes don’t have to put in any extra effort to read and interpret the words in front of you, limiting strain and exhaustion as long as the symptoms that so often come along with them.


When thinking about your mental health and cognitive performance, don’t forget to take a closer look at how your vision plays a part. Not having the right prescription or not wearing a corrective pair of lenses at all can have a detrimental effect on your cognition.

After all, the brain and your eyes are directly connected - both help you to see and interpret the world around you. By wearing a well-fitted pair of stylish prescription eyeglasses with the right prescription, you can set yourself up for success both visually and mentally.

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