Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC also states that ADHD is one of the most commonly misdiagnosed disorders. ADHD is typically diagnosed based on an individual’s social and medical history. Because there are no physiological markers for ADHD, it is possible to diagnose someone inaccurately. Thanks to new research from Tel Aviv University, that may change. A new study suggests a “foolproof” method of diagnosing ADHD using eye-tracking. The results could help clinicians better identify ADHD and help individuals receive appropriate treatments.
The researchers tested two groups of 22 adults using an eye-tracking system. One group consisted of adults diagnosed with ADHD and the other served as the control group. Each group completed an ADHD diagnostic, the Test of Variables of Attention (TOVA), using a computer. The group with ADHD first took the test unmedicated and later took the test while using the ADHD medication methylphenidate. The group without ADHD also took the TOVA twice, but did not use any medication.
The results indicate a direct correlation between ADHD and involuntary eye movements. The participants with ADHD were not able to suppress eye movements in anticipation of visual stimuli like the participants in the control group were. The researchers also discovered that the ADHD group performed better on the test when using methylphenidate. When using methylphenidate, the ADHD group had the same level of involuntary eye movement as the control group on average.
Tracking involuntary eye movements could be a way to diagnose ADHD. The research team is continuing their work by testing this method in more extensive trials with larger groups of participants.
“This test is affordable and accessible, rendering it a practical and foolproof tool for medical professionals. With other tests, you can slip up, make ‘mistakes’ – intentionally or not. But our test cannot be fooled. Eye movements tracked in this test are involuntary, so they constitute a sound physiological marker of ADHD,” explained Dr. Moshe Fried, one of the study’s authors.
This research is published in the journal Vision Research.
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