четвртак, 20. септембар 2012.

Observing patients’ eye movements may hold clues about neurological functioning. In a study published last month (August 25) in the Journal of Neurology, scientists show that subtle differences in eye movement patterns can be utilized to identify patients with Parkinson’s, fetal alcohol syndrome, or attention deficit disorder, providing hope for a qui
ck and noninvasive strategy to aid in diagnosing these, and possibly other, neurological diseases.

“I am very impressed with the use of this eye tracking as a potential behavioral biomarker,” said Edward Riley, who studies fetal alcohol syndrome at San Diego State University, but did not participate in the research. The strategy could one day be used to rapidly screen children at risk for behavioral problems, he added, but whose mild symptoms may cause their issues to be overlooked.

Many diseases and disorders affect how we move our eyes, influencing both voluntary and involuntary movements. Disorders of attention, like attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), may change whether patients pay attention to the same objects in a video as normal controls. In other cases, changes in involuntary muscle control, like those seen in Parkinson’s disease, can affect how quickly our eyes move to take in new information on a screen.

Eye movements are a “sneak peak at the potential the brain has to do certain things,” said Beatriz Luna, who researches the development of voluntary behavioral control at the University of Pittsburgh, but was not involved in the study. Importantly, saccades—the short jerks that eyes make as they change position—are “the fastest motor movement the body can make,” she added. “You really can’t fake them.”

The researchers used special headgear to track participants’ eye movements—recording speed and direction and noting exactly where on the screen the individual was looking. Though neurological changes underlying Parkinson’s disease can affect attention, it was the changes in involuntary eye movements that allowed the researchers to classify patients.

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