It’s All in the Way You Look at It

Neurological disorders like Parkinsons disease and ADHD may be detected by eye movement

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Diagnosing some brain disorders requires testing that can be expensive and complicated. What if something as simple as the way a person moves their eyes could show if they had Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD), Parkinson’s disease (PD) or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)?

Researchers at the University of Southern California believe it can and have designed a testing system that uses a television set to do so.

By studying how study participants eyes move while watching a 20 minute video, the researchers could predict ADHD, PD, and FASD.

"Speak to your doctor if you 'feel-off'"."

Doctoral student Po-He Tseng and Professor Laurent Itti of the Department of Computer Science at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, along with collaborators at Queen’s University in Canada studied 108 subjects.

The study consisted of 21 children with ADHD, 13 children with FASD, 14 elderly people with PD, 18 control children, 18 young controls and 24 elderly controls.

The researchers recorded the movements of the participant’s eyes during the videos and gathered data for factors like length of focus, transitional movement between viewpoints and which scenes caught more attention. A total of 15 features of eye movement were defined and calculated and a prediction was made on the participant’s group status.

The researchers hypothesized that natural attention and eye movement is unique to every individual, like a signature or drop of saliva.

This biometric signature holds information regarding the individual’s brain function or medical condition.

The study uncovered separate biometric profiles of eye movement and attention allocation in PD, ADHD, and FASD.

PD patients were most easily identified through eye movement patterns suggesting that attention deficits for PD are less of a problem that motor problems. PD was predicted with 89.6 percent accuracy.

Children with ADHD or FASD were best identified by their attention and what drew it. ADHD and FASD were predicted with 77.3 percent accuracy.

By identifying features that are most common to certain groups of people with disorders, this system reveals much about how certain disorders affect a person’s interaction with the world.

The simple test did not require machinery, could be completed in 15 minutes and is portable, making it an ideal candidate for use anywhere. The simplicity of the test makes it particularly useful with young children and the elderly who may be less compliant with existing tests.

Dr. Christopher Quinn, an optometrist with Omni Eye Associates, commented that this study confirms a unique connection between oculomotor skills and both cognitive and physical function.

"Further confirmation and refinement of these techniques may make screening for these and other neurologic conditions faster and more accessible to large populations," said Dr. Quinn

The study was published in the August Journal of Neurology.

Funding was provided by the National Science Foundation, the Army Research Office, the Human Frontier Science Program and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

One author received a scholarship from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and another was supported by the Canada Research Chair program.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 12, 2012
Last Updated:
September 12, 2012