Monday, May 6, 2013

Vision and Mental Health Linked in Eye Movement Studies

Currently, there are no scientific tests to diagnose some mental illnesses; for instance, there is no bipolar test to determine whether one is suffering from manic depression. However, studies are underway that will hopefully help researchers to create such a test.

New technology has been developed which has allowed researchers to accurately measure vision abnormalities in the mentally ill. One study, funded by a $1.2 million grant, is studying eye movements such patients. Research so far has shown that the way the eyes track in that population group can indicate an adverse medical condition in the brain. The team is working with a sample group diagnosed with conditions including depression, schizophrenia, autism, attention disorders and bipolar disorder.

Eye tracking and eye movement are the main areas of focus in the study. How the eyes react can suggest problems with how the nervous system works in the mentally ill. For example, slow-moving objects are difficult for those with schizophrenia to track with their eyes, and those who suffer from bipolar disorder may be sensitive to various lighting conditions and light wave lengths. Depression hurts, and those suffering from it may have visual abnormalities as well. For instance, the severely depressed can experience tunnel vision.

There are other studies underway that also revolve around the eyes. These studies look at how artificial darkness, optical prisms, and color contacts affect mood.

Eye movement studies may offer a way to better understand the problems in the brain that occur in the mentally ill. Through further research, perhaps a link will be found between eye movement and cognitive abnormalities and a tie to their genetic basis. Hopefully, there will be discoveries in testing, diagnosing, and treating people with mental illnesses based on these studies.

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