You may never have heard of “dancing eyes;” the condition affects about one in 400 people, and causes the eyes to go through a rhythmic oscillation in a flickering motion. It has the formal name of nystagmus, and can arise from a variety of causes. It affects the muscles that control eye movement, but a mechanical treatment is difficult because you want to suppress the involuntary motion while still allowing the intentional movements required for normal vision.

Scientists at the University College of London and University of Oxford came up with a novel solution that had been described in theory but had not been implemented. They implanted a pair of small magnets in the patient’s eye. One was placed below the eye on the orbital socket. The other was attached to the eye muscles responsible for the eye movement. The attraction between the two magnets was sufficient to suppress the flickering motions without interfering with the intentional movements.

Before the procedures, the patient was not able to see well enough to work. The implants worked well enough for him to return to his job, and over a period of four years, his vision continued to improve. The researchers hope to conduct further trials of this approach. It’s a fascinating demonstration of how a relatively simple, non-electronic implant can have a profound effect on a patient’s condition.