Researchers have found that simple eye movement or fixation tests can help in the detection of schizophrenia with 98% accuracy.
This research has been published online in the journal of Biological Psychiatry.
“It has been known for over a hundred years that individuals with psychotic illnesses have a variety of eye movement abnormalities, but until our study, using a novel battery of tests, no one thought the abnormalities were sensitive enough to be used as potential clinical diagnostic biomarkers,” said Dr. Philip Benson and Dr. David St. Clair, lead authors on the paper.
Researchers in this study worked on a number of tests such as smooth pursuit, free-viewing, and gaze fixation tasks.
Researchers found that in the smooth pursuit, patients of schizophrenia found it difficult to follow the slow moving objects with their eyes. Their eyes move behind the moving object and catch the moving object with rapid eye movement called as saccade. In the case of free-viewing, patients of schizophrenia follow an abnormal pattern as compared to the general population while looking at the picture. In the case of gaze fixation tasks, it is difficult for the patient of schizophrenia to keep a steady gaze on a single unmoving target. Based on these tests, researchers used several methods to model the data and one of the models showed 98.3% accuracy.
“We now have exciting unpublished data showing that patterns of eye movement abnormalities are specific to different psychiatric subgroups, another key requirement for diagnostic biomarkers.
“The next thing we want to know is when the abnormalities are first detectable and can they be used as disease markers for early intervention studies in major mental illness,” said the researchers.
“We are also keen to explore how best our findings can be developed for use in routine clinical practice,” they added.
These tests are found to be simple, cheap and very less time consuming for diagnosis of schizophrenia.
Philip J. Benson, Sara A. Beedie, Elizabeth Shephard, Ina Giegling, Dan Rujescu, David St. Clair, (2012). Simple Viewing Tests Can Detect Eye Movement Abnormalities That Distinguish Schizophrenia Cases from Controls with Exceptional Accuracy. Biological Psychiatry, doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2012.04.019