Minecraft doesn’t come up in conversation every day at Bright Eyes Kids, but pretty close to it. I typically ask all my patients, young and old, what they do for fun and Minecraft is the first thing many kids say. And if you spend any time at a mall, school, or other place with kids, you will see lots of kids in Minecraft-themed t-shirts (but you might not get the jokes unless you have played it yourself.) And now Microsoft just bought the company that makes Minecraft for $2.5 Billion (with a B). Clearly they think someone is playing this game.
We have known for years that there is a link between how the eyes work and attention. This is why there are so many children who have both Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and visual coordination problems. Pediatric optometrists see this in the exam room every day and it is our job to help sort out how much of a child’s difficulty is due to ADHD and how much is due to not being able to visual focus and move their eyes efficiently.
There is some new research about ADHD and eye movements that is very compelling. Researchers in Tel Aviv, Israel, led by Moshe Fried, MD, have found that by simply monitoring involuntary eye movements, ADHD can be diagnosed.
“This test is affordable and accessible, rendering it a practical and foolproof tool for medical professionals,” said Dr. Fried. “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.
The study also showed that Ritalin (methylphenidate) does work in improving ADHD as measured by eye movement control. What was not researched in this study is how much other treatments that also improve eye movement control influence ADHD. Optometric vision therapy is commonly used to help patients improve their voluntary and involuntary eye movements.
Clearly more research is needed to better understand the relationship between ADHD and eye control, but this new study is a step in the right direction.
I know it is the height of summer. But the “back to school” season is right around the corner. New schools, new teachers, and new challenges await every student. Good vision is among the many skills children need to read, write and learn their best. Many parents do not realize that vision is more than being able to see the words on a page or board clearly, but it is actually a form of fine-motor skill. Just like it takes years to master the fine motor skill of controlling the tiny muscle of the fingers to write legibly, it takes years to master the coordination of the even smaller muscles that move and focus the eyes. Continue reading