Is the Iris a Receptor?

By Vincenzo Di Spazio*

Up until now, we have considered the iris substantially as a somatotopic model, a representative map of various organs, of endocrine and exocrine glands, of the osteoarticular apparatus, and of central and peripheral nervous structures. However, as opposed to other representative models such as the foot or the ear, up until now the iris has allowed the limited possibility to be read, but the dream of a precise interaction with it has been precluded.

What is meant by interaction? This refers to the direct intervention on a mass or surface of the body with the ability to provoke a response, a reflex which can be codified. We can intervene on the surface of the foot by means of directed pressure and on the ear by means of the insertion of needles, thus forcing a reaction from the body (pain, heat, activation of a local or remote nervous reflex). But how can we interact with the iris, in other words, how can we carry on a dialog with it?

The only form of stimulation known, at a level that will not damage this most sensitive of structures, is light. Efforts in this direction have already been carried out in the recent past by Russian researchers, without, however, producing results that are scientifically reliable. At the end of the 1980s, an evocative hypothesis was advanced on the part of iridologist and chronobiologist Dr. Dan Waniek, who postulated a non-visual function of the eye which he referred to as "Functio ocularis sistemica" (PHOS). In this new model, importance is given to structures that are normally only marginally considered, such as the iris, the ciliary bodies, the lens, and the peripheral retina, which play an active homeostatic role in collaboration with precise cerebral areas. A reliable demonstration is derived from the variations in the graph of the electroretinogram (ERG) corresponding to ora serrata (the so-called "blind" portion of the retina) following photostimulation through the iris and not through the pupil. The findings lead us to conclude that the iris responds to light in a sufficiently clear manner, but at the same time it is necessary to develop a new interactive model.

My most recent studies have emphasized the concrete possibility of constructing a chronobiological pattern applicable to the complexity of the iris. This model calls for a radial subdivision in 60 sections of 6 each, with a beginning and an end at the 12 o'clock position. The range of each division covers the distance between the pupillary margin and the iridial periphery.

For now, let us abandon the idea of a possible somatotopic assessment in order to not excessively confuse our topographical notions, and let us move into the dimension of time. If every iridial section corresponds to a chronological value equal to 12 months of life, we obtain a complete cycle of 60 years with the beginning at the 12 o'clock position and proceeding in a counterclockwise direction. From the morphochromatic point of view, the section, reflecting a codified portion of the iridial stroma, is characterized by an extreme variety of ridges, depressions, and pigments. These variables complicate our chronobiological model exponentially. Their virtual elimination allow us to concentrate our attention on the muscular component of the iris.

The sphincter muscle of the pupil has an annular structure with a thickness of from 0.1 to 0.3 millimeters and is innervated by the parasympathetic system. It is located around the pupillary circumference and is visible in the form of a whitish ring in hypopigmented (blue) irises. In my opinion, its visibility renders it exceptionally unique among all the muscles of the body. Its incredible characteristics are further revealed by its peculiar embryological derivation. Together with its antagonist the pupillary dilator, and the hair erectors (erectorpili muscles), it originates from the neuroectodermic layer and not from the mesoderm, from which all the other muscles are formed. This suggests its special affinity for the central and peripheral neurostructures. In addition, with respect to the other muscles in the body with an analogous sphincteral activity (gastrointestinal and genitourinary tracts), it is distinguished by the mechanism of contraction, rather than of dilation.

The antagonism of the dilator muscle of the pupil is carried out instead through its typically radial morphology and its dependence on the sympathetic nervous system. It is located in the iridial stroma, proximally bordering on the peripupillary sphincter. The reciprocal and continual interaction between these two involuntary muscles determines not only the evident pupillary activity (miosis, mydriasis, hippus), but also translates into a visible manner the dynamic relationships between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

At this point, we can define the iridial section as a muscular segment composed of 2 sub-units: the short one (the sphincter muscle) and the long one (the dilator muscle of the pupil). As a convention, we will indicate the short sub-unit as the "blue fragment" and the long sub-unit as the "red fragment". The precise position of the muscular segments on the iridial surface according to the aforementioned sexagesimal subdivision by time reproduces the possible status of the neurovegetative system at different ages.

What practical use can a new mapping have if the morphochromatic variables have been eliminated from this chronobiological model? If we hypothesize the possible photoreceptor ability of the various iridial muscular segments, a new, unexplored work of research and applications opens up. My most recent studies have documented 2 different types of responses in subjects who were subjected to iridial photomyostimulation. The photostimulation of the so-called "red fragment" tends to produce tachycardia, mild dyspnea, paresthesia of the fingertips, sensations of heat, and increased anxiety. On the contrary, the photoexcitation of the so-called "blue fragment" induces muscular relaxation of the trapezius, a decrease in anxiety, and drowsiness.

In the future, it will be necessary to standardize in a homogenous manner the intensity and the duration of the photostimulation to obtain effects that are certain and repeatable. In addition, the evocative possibility is raised of intervening with this methodology according to the age of the appearance of a determined disturbance. This would signify not only that the muscular segment of the iris performs a complex function such as having a photoreceptor ability, but that it even possesses a sort of "neurovegetative memory" that is specific according to age.

* Vincenzo Di Spazio, iridological physician and naturopath, has been Professor of Iridology at the University of Urbino, Italy since 1994. He works in the field of chronoiridology and published "AgegateÒ " on this topic in 1997. He lives and works in Bolzano, Italy.

Ó Vincenzo Di Spazio 2000

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