Simple Eye Test May Diagnose ADHD
Scientists have found that a simple eye test can accurately diagnose ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder).
It’s a challenge to diagnose ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder), and clinicians have been hoping for an accurate diagnostic tool to make it easier. Now it seems such a tool, a simple eye test, has been developed by researchers at Tel Aviv University.
William Shakespeare said that “The eyes are the windows to your soul.” In medicine, the eyes often serve as a gateway to uncovering and diagnosing a wide spectrum of health problems. Now ADHD may be one of them.
Eye test for ADHD
A team of researchers at Tel Aviv University found that the involuntary eye movements that people make can accurately reveal whether a person has ADHD. To come to this realization, the scientists performed the following experiment using an eye tracking system that followed and recorded how the study’s subjects moved their eyes.
The eye tracking system was used while the participants completed a computerized test called the Test of Variables of Attention (TOVA). This computer game or “test” lasts nearly 22 minutes and is an objective measure of a person’s attention, not a subjective scoring of behavior.
One group of 22 adults with ADHD completed the TOVA without being medicated with methylphenidate (e.g., Ritalin, Concerta) and in another session with medication. A group of 22 adults without ADHD acted as the control group and completed the TOVA as well.
Here’s what the researchers observed:
- A direct relationship between having ADHD and an inability to control eye movement when anticipating visual stimulation, which was part of the TOVA
- Individuals with ADHD improved their TOVA performance when they had taken methylphenidate, which brought the suppression of involuntary movements of their eyes in line with those seen in the control group
Therefore, monitoring the eye movements of individuals when they take TOVA is an accurate way to help diagnose ADHD. As noted by Dr. Moshe Fried, of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, “Eye movements tracked in this test are involuntary, so they constitute a sound physiological marker of ADHD.”
Since there is no single test available to diagnose ADHD in children or adults, clinicians need to use several approaches. One is the presence of symptoms typical of ADHD that occur for six months or longer and which are present in more than one setting, such as at home, at school, in social settings, and in the community. Generally, those symptoms include inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity which manifest as fidgeting, losing things, finding it difficult to listen, being easily distracted, and an inability to finish tasks.
In adults, symptoms of inattention and impulsiveness are common along with anxiety, lack of organizational skills, low self-esteem, short temper, and being chronically forgetful. Adults who are diagnosed with ADHD also should have had these symptoms as children as well.
In young people, clinicians also may use a test called the Neuropsychiatric EEG-Based Assessment Aid System, which measures theta and beta brain waves. Studies have shown that the theta/beta ratio is higher in children and adolescents who have ADHD when compared with children without the condition.
Clinicians also use other tools to help diagnose ADHD, such as interviews with teachers and other adults in the child’s life. Tests that measure factors such as intelligence, learning abilities, mental health, and social adjustment skills also are used.
Tel Aviv University researchers appear to have found an effective, easy to administer, and accurate way to diagnose ADHD. Further trials are needed to verify these findings.
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Fried M et al. ADHD subjects fail to suppress eye blinks and microsaccades while anticipating visual stimuli but recover with medication. Vision Research 2014; 101:62