Using Eye Movement to Predict Schizophrenia

Britain's University of Aberdeen has completed a study which shows how accurately tests that measure eye movement can predict the risks of developing schizophrenia. The study is published in Biological Psychiatry.

Researchers asked 88 schizophrenia patients to completed a battery of tests that required them to following an object around a computer screen while a camera tracked the path their eyes took (their "scanpath"). They were also required to scan an everyday scene and isolate specific objects.

Among the schizophrenic patients, the single most reliable predictor was restriction along the free-viewing scanpaths. There was also a marked difference in the results of a test for fixation-stability, which is a measure of saccade inhibition. These results were stable over time, and were independent of cigarette use, which can sometimes cause aberrant results in eye-viewing tasks. The aberrations persisted among those taking medication.

On average, the battery of eye-viewing tests predicted cases of newly-diagnosed schizophrenia with a reliability of 87.8 percent. The addition of a probability model boosted the discrimination to 98 percent, making eye-viewing characteristics much more reliable than any other trait marker for schizophrenia.

Its low cost, ease of use, and universal utility make the Aberdeen eye-viewing battery a promising option for the detection of new schizophrenia cases.

Source: University of Aberdeen, UK

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