Scottish Scientists Develop Eye Test That Detects Schizophrenia

There has been a major breakthrough in the diagnosis of schizophrenia. Scientists at Aberdeen University have reportedly developed a way with near 100 percent accuracy to detect whether a person has schizophrenia — an eye test.

The lost of eye movement has long been known as a symptom of schizophrenia.

Schizophrenic individuals showed difficulty in tracking slow-moving objects smoothly with their eyes. They also have difficulty in maintaining a steady gaze.

Dr. Philip Benson and Professor David St Clair developed the combination of eye tests including smooth pursuit test, the free viewing test (involving everyday scenes) and the fixation task test. Their research is published in the November issue of the academic journal Biological Psychiatry.

Source: Scotsman

35 thoughts on “Scottish Scientists Develop Eye Test That Detects Schizophrenia”

  1. Large samples are only necessary for certainty when results are ambiguous; in the area of 50/50 (give or take 20 points).
    pity the soul that finds itself sitting squarley outside of the statistical curve….

    Pied Beauty

    GLORY be to God for dappled things—
    For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
    Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
    Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough; 5
    And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

    All things counter, original, spare, strange;
    Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
    He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: 10
    Praise him.
    ~Gerard Manley Hopkins

    …..what if schizophrenia is a simple side effect of adaptation and is evolution in progress?

  2. @Mike S: …or even in some cases very different symptomology than that of schizophrenia. Yet in many instances rather than refining, or changing the diagnoses, the initial diagnosis remains the label for the patient.

    Metaphorically speaking, that is the problem with most of society, in business, in science, in government, in teaching and in law. Far too much reverence is given to arbitrary decisions made by people with too little information, that decided for the wrong reasons or in error, believing something that was not so.

    As Will Rogers said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that hurts you. It’s what you know that ain’t so.”

    That itself ain’t always so, but the vigorous pursuit and defense of what ain’t so is one of my top candidates for what will destroy the country and perhaps eventually exterminate the human race.

  3. OS,

    Correctly states that we currently have to rely on symptoms to diagnose schizophrenia. I ‘ve also done extensive work with people diagnosed with schizophrenia. Part of the problem with most of the schizophrenics as diagnosed, that I’ve worked with is that most of these diagnoses come when the person is admitted to a psychiatric emergency room, with the person in s decomposed state. As they become more relaxed, some then display signs of other conditions with somewhat similar symptoms to schizophrenia, or even in some cases very different symptomology than that of schizophrenia. Yet in many instances rather than refining, or changing the diagnoses, the initial diagnosis remains the label for the patient.

    While I think this study, if replicable and fully peer reviewed, could pan out into a valuable tool, I think it way to early in the experimental process, to see it as a breakthrough.

  4. Lotta,

    Did you read any of the book which MikeS wrote a review on about RWAs, Right Wing Authoritarians. Contrary to what one might suppose from the title it was not about “authoritarian types”, but rather those who have a need of authoritarians. Can say more but must learn to be brief.

  5. Quite recently I believe we had a thread “Sticks and Stones….but words will never hurt me.”
    It was based on a study of people, in this case those who in mid-school, who had been subjected to “bullying” (don’t know the word you use there).

    With a new form of scanning the study had established that “mental stress/emotional stress” could cause changes in the development of the brain, severely different from a “normal” development pattern.
    As I recall, the linked article pointed out a clear underdevelopment of the corpus callosum, which enables communication between the two brain halves.

    As I recall, there was very little discussion here.
    I wonder what the reaction to this threads point is now, considering the interest that schizophrenism is under discussion as to diagnostic aspects.

    Specifically it would be interesting to hear of the eventual assistance that the detection of physical changes to the physical brain has provided with respect to the problem of schizoidism. It often breaks out in the mid-teens if memory serves me. And since so little progress establishing a base of study, the new opportunities might be useful.

    Excuse the length of this.

  6. Considering the frequency of hallucinations and hearing voices as well as disorganized thinking I’ve often wondered if the fundi religions (and religious fundamentalists over all religions) might not be a population group that has a much higher ratio of schizophrenic people than the general population. Same for Republicans/teabagger types. The talk to Dog and he talks back (he talks back to them- tells them to run for office!) they don’t do well with logic based arguments and facts or fields of study, they have a view of reality that is not observable or subject to logic and reasoning.

    I have called these Pat Robertson types and their followers “crazies” for years and I believe that it is an appropriate label. Same for many of the teabagger politicians that want to translate their religious delusions into law. They seem to be living within a mass hallucination- their reality isn’t real.
    I’d like to see more mental health research done using these folks- I like whatever is wrong with them to have a name. And treatment.

  7. Lee sez: “…a brain issue, whether chemical or anatomical.”


    The brain is an electrochemical organ. It will have to be both. Brains are also highly sensitive to any insult or injury, whether by chemical origin, physical, or autoimmune disorder. The neuropathology of schizophrenia remains obscure, so any new research that throws light on it is welcome.

    Alois Alzheimer studied the neuropathology of schizophrenia for a time, but became exasperated and went on to study dementia instead. The physiology of schizophrenia has remained elusive. We have had to rely on evaluation of symptoms rather than accurate physical tests, such as those done on dementia patients.

  8. Lee, as Tony said, 88 in each group is a respectable size sample. A sample of about 30 subjects is sufficient in most cases to give a study sufficient statistical power to justify publication. Having said that, replication of the study will be important, in order to verify the findings.

    My guess is the researchers are onto something. That is based on almost a half century in this business and having evaluated an untold number of schizophrenics of every variety. We know that schizophrenics are “wired up” differently than the rest of the population. Having central nervous system anomalies is expected, not an outlier.

    1. Ty That was really my point, What they accept for journals is not necessarily an ultimate reflection of reality; one study does not a reality make. I have not dealt with anyone who is schizophrenic (to my knowledge) so only can go on my limited knowledge of it as a brain issue, whether chemical or anatomical.

  9. @Lee: It was actually 298 in the full study, not 88, even the 88 you read was 88 schiz and 88 normal; 176.

    So out of 176 individuals, they predicted the correct answer 173 times, and were wrong only 3 times. The 95% confidence interval on that (98.3% chance of correct, 1.7% chance of error) is within 1%. The chances of that happening by a pure guess is essentially zero to 47 decimal places.

    Basically, the worst case for them is perhaps a 3% mis-diagnosis rate, If their results are replicated, even with a smaller sample, then they have found something real.

    Large samples are only necessary for certainty when results are ambiguous; in the area of 50/50 (give or take 20 points). When something is hitting at 98% when the alternative is a 50/50 guess (as it is in this sample of 88 of each) then it is either a mistake (or fraud) or it is a real discovery.

    Nothing wrong with a real discovery, especially one grounded in known symptoms of the problem. Don’t be hatin’ on progress, Lee! 🙂

    1. Not hatin’ on progress just even 288 is a very small population. Too many times a small study has been used to extrapolate out to the population in general and it has been wrong. This one I guess could not hurt, absent naming people schizophrenic when they are not which could ruin their chances throughout the rest of their lives

  10. 88 is such a tiny sample. As stated earlier replication is needed, as well as a much larger sample.

  11. I will by this link to a TED presentation give homage to Dredd, our visionary. It was linked on one of his blogs. I found it so much more revolutionary than the “mild” descriptions of the microorganisms, who use us as hosts and do positive services to us, which he uses to arouse our understanding of the world aroung us.

    Let me pick out two basic ideas from the presentation to emphasize here.

    1) Microorganisms, ie bacteria, established the basic rules for cooperation in a macroorganism which we in fact are. That our hearts can cooperate with other organisms is thanks to the rules that bacteria made.
    So what? So study of them will help us understand our own basic processes and how to control them if needed.
    They had two essential tasks to first accomplish. Species-specific communication, and Species O-specific (pan species) communication.

    2) All the revelations which her group’s work, about 20 people, have made under the years—has been done by people between the ages of 20 to 30 years.
    So our future is determined by our youth, the really young. So what we do to help them will help us, and our future. The discoveries were theirs.

  12. @Otteray: Sorry. Here is the link in plain:

    Here is the text you can read there:

    We have investigated which eye-movement tests alone and combined can best discriminate schizophrenia cases from control subjects and their predictive validity.

    A training set of 88 schizophrenia cases and 88 controls had a range of eye movements recorded; the predictive validity of the tests was then examined on eye-movement data from 34 9-month retest cases and controls, and from 36 novel schizophrenia cases and 52 control subjects. Eye movements were recorded during smooth pursuit, fixation stability, and free-viewing tasks. Group differences on performance measures were examined by univariate and multivariate analyses. Model fitting was used to compare regression, boosted tree, and probabilistic neural network approaches.

    As a group, schizophrenia cases differed from control subjects on almost all eye-movement tests, including horizontal and Lissajous pursuit, visual scanpath, and fixation stability; fixation dispersal during free viewing was the best single discriminator. Effects were stable over time, and independent of sex, medication, or cigarette smoking. A boosted tree model achieved perfect separation of the 88 training cases from 88 control subjects; its predictive validity on retest assessments and novel cases and control subjects was 87.8%. However, when we examined the whole data set of 298 assessments, a cross-validated probabilistic neural network model was superior and could discriminate all cases from controls with near perfect accuracy at 98.3%.

    Simple viewing patterns can detect eye-movement abnormalities that can discriminate schizophrenia cases from control subjects with exceptional accuracy.
    Key Words

    eye-movement phenotype;
    neural network;
    predictive model;
    risk marker;

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