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Scientists show that fast eye movements indicate impulsivity

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The speed at which a person moves their eyes while making a decision was found to be an indicator of impulsive behavior and a potential indicator of underlying behavioral problems or brain disease in research conducted by Dr. Reza Shadmehr, professor of biomedical engineering and neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University, and colleagues published in the Jan. 21, 2014, edition of The Journal of Neuroscience.

The most rapid human body movement is the movement of the eyes as a person attempts to focus on one object and then another. The movements are called saccades and have been shown to be faster in young people than in older people. The difference in speed may be attributable to the higher levels of impulsivity in young people.

The researchers conducted a series of experiments that measured the speed that “normal” people responded to multiple visual stimuli and found that as expected different people have different rates of saccades.

The researchers then added the potential for a reward that was dependent on the participants waiting to respond to a visual stimulus. The researchers found a great variety of differences in the rapidity of eye movements when a reward was involved.

The scientists conclude that eye movement speed is directly related to other brain functions like impulsive behavior. The researchers propose using similar tests to determine the existence of brain injury and brain disease earlier than is presently possible.


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