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Current Research: Eye Movements May Help Diagnose ADHD

With the rise of ADHD being diagnosed in the United States, researchers are working to determine a measure to objectively diagnose the condition. Currently, for a child to be diagnosed with ADHD he or she must exhibit a certain number of symptoms in two different settings. This current survey-based approach is subjective and one person's responses to the survey can change the outcome of the diagnosis. What if there was an object way to determine if someone has ADHD?

Diagnosis of ADHD relies heavily on a symptom survey. If a child exhibits enough symptoms in the absence of any other underlying conditions, such as undiagnosed seizures or major life changes, then ADHD is suspected. The obvious problems with this approach fall into two major categories:

  1. What if the adults filling out the survey are not accurate in their responses?

Most of us exhibit ADHD-like symptoms to a certain degree. Do you find a 30 second commercial too long? How many apps do you have open on your phone during a business meeting? It may be difficult for a parent to determine if a child's behavior is appropriate for their age.

 

  1. What if an underlying condition does exist but remains undiagnosed?

For example, many of the symptoms on the ADHD survey are not unique to ADHD. In fact, a child with binocular vision dysfunction would fit the criteria for ADHD based on the list of symptoms. If that child has received eye exams from a doctor who has technicians perform much of the testing and is only concerned with whether or not the child sees 20/20, binocular vision dysfunction will likely go undiagnosed. In order to rule out an underlying vision condition, a child must undergo a comprehensive, developmental eye exam. An optometrist with residency training in the areas of binocular vision, pediatrics, or vision therapy possesses advanced training to diagnose these conditions.

 

Researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel are working to add an objective measure to the diagnosis of ADHD. Their research has shown that involuntary eye movements can accurately diagnose a person with ADHD. They determined that individuals with ADHD had a higher number of micro saccades (eye movements that allow your eyes to jump from one target to the next) as well as an increased number of blinks. Because they were looking at involuntary eye movements researchers believe their results are “sound physiological markers of ADHD.” This research may mean that one day optometrists may play a role in the diagnosis of ADHD.  

Posted by Ryan Johnson at 10/16/2014 10:10:00 PM
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