Today’s guest blogger is Dr. Ron Berger. Dr. Berger practices in Ellicott City, MD. He loves working with children, athletes and individuals with special needs. When he is not providing vision care, Dr. Berger can be found on the ski slopes and the golf course. He is also a private pilot and and participates in a volunteer program flying pets to locations in which they can be adopted into new homes.
We don’t often think about eye movements, mainly because as parents we look at our children’s eyes only for appearance and to be certain that we have their attention when speaking to them. The only time that we look critically at the movement of the eyes is when there is an obvious problem such as turning of one eye outward or inward with respect to the other eye (strabismus) or when “jiggling” (nystagmus) is readily apparent.
However, when examined by a professional, eye movements have much different meanings and consequences. For example, pediatricians ask children to follow a penlight in all directions of gaze to ensure the existence of neurological integrity, and police officers perform the same test to gauge the loss of reaction time of a driver who has been drinking.
Developmental optometrists view eye movements as insights into how and what a person is thinking. While reflex eye movements do exist, voluntary eye movements are determined by the brain or the mind of the person. We do not move our eyes randomly; rather, we move them to that place where we expect to get the most information from whatever we are attending to at the moment. We might be following the flight of a ball and attempting to determine where it will land so that we may put ourselves into the proper position to catch it. We might be viewing the landscape before we venture out into the street (look both ways, please). We might be trying to read and determining where our eyes should land within the line on the page, or where the next line of print begins.
The examiner of eye movements may use tests of performance such as tracking moving objects while watching the actual movements of the eyes, tracking non-moving objects (such as numbers on a printed page) for speed and accuracy, and eye-hand coordination tasks to evaluate how well the person is matching eye movements with hand and finger actions. In addition, some developmental optometrists may use infrared tracking technology to obtain a graphic record of eye movements during different tasks such as reading.
When eye movements are determined to be less than optimal, noted symptoms such as poor general coordination, poor athletic skills, skipping words and lines during reading, not recognizing the same word even on the same page, and similar behaviors become easier to understand. Depending upon each individual and the relationship of eye movements to one’s brain and mind, vision therapy may be appropriate. Vision therapy has a long history of successfully treating such disorders.
Here’s more about eye movements: