The eyes have it, as the saying goes. Eyes have long been used by medical professionals to diagnose a wide range of diseases and conditions, many of which are not directly related to vision. New technology is expanding the scope of these diagnoses to include a range of neurological problems that can be difficult to identify objectively. For example, consider the problems related to concussion injuries as the result of head impact. Many smaller impacts can be as damaging as one large one, but in other cases, a patient might not be affected by the impacts.

In 2015, we wrote about a company that was studying tiny eye movements as a source of diagnostic data. Saccadous has since developed their technology further. Even more importantly, the company has conducted clinical research that clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of their system. The three graphs above are from a case study for a college basketball player. The player sustained impacts to both the front and back of the head during a game, and reported temporary blindness and double vision. The top left graph shows the baseline data that was recorded for this player at the start of the season. The eye movements were symmetrical for both the left and right eyes as they followed a moving target. Three days after the injury, the right eye clearly was not responding as it had, as shown in the second graph. Eight days after the injury, the third graph shows that the right eye tracking movements had recovered nearly to their original state, and the player was cleared to return to play.

Saccadous also has data showing how the eye movements can be used to predict the risk of falling for patients with Parkinson’s Disease. They can help diagnose progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), and even Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive impairment. The fact that these claims are now be backed up by scientific research results helps advance the use of this technology. This underscores the need for clinical research to prove the value of any new health technology. Fortunately, we have entered a stage in this complex market where companies understand the need for such research, and are working hard to accumulate meaningful data to demonstrate the value of their products.