As more research is completed, scientists realize just how interconnected different parts of the human body are–especially the eyes.

One of the biggest indicators of just how integrated the eyes really are is the “King-Devick” test. This test was designed to help doctors better identify if someone has suffered a concussion and has revolutionized concussion diagnoses. But simple eye tests aren’t just identifying brain trauma–now they’re diagnosing certain mental illnesses.

Simple Schizophrenia Eye Test

A new simple eye test can identify schizophrenia.

According to a Scottish study, scientists have developed a simple eye test that is 98 percent accurate in “distinguishing between those with and without 
schizophrenia.” The reason the test is so effective is that schizophrenics often have impaired eye movement that makes it difficult for them to smoothly track slow moving objects or keep a steady gaze for an extended period of time.

The study was conducted by Dr. Philip Benson and Professor David St. Clair and included a litany of different eye tests designed specifically to identify schizophrenia. In the study, “volunteers were asked to track slow-moving objects slowly with their eyes (known as smooth pursuit); inspect a variety of everyday scenes (free viewing); and given instructions to keep a steady gaze on a single, unmoving target (fixation tasks).”

Dr. Benson said that individuals with psychotic illnesses have been known to have various abnormalities in their eye movements, but until this study, it was never confirmed.

“In smooth pursuit, people with schizophrenia have well-documented deficits in the 
ability to track slow-moving objects smoothly with their eyes. Their eye movements tend to fall behind the moving object and then catch up with the moving object using rapid eye 
movements,” Dr. Benson said.

In ensure their tests were accurate, the two said they used multiple methods to model the data and each of the algorithms created were tested against those developed from tests on a control group. After combining all the data, they were able to see that their tests were 98 percent effective in diagnosing schizophrenia. Professor St. Clair said that  the biggest benefit of this development is that these eye tests are simple, cheap and only take a few minutes to conduct in comparison to the typical neuropsychological assessments that are not only time-consuming, but also have to be performed by a highly-trained professional.

There’s no telling what other connections between the eyes and the rest of the body will be discovered in the future, but I can tell you that this is an exciting time to be in the field of optometry.