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Eye Movement and Your Culture

Eye Movement and Your Culture Did you know that your culture plays an influence on the way that your eyes move? Scientists at the University of Liverpool recently discovered that eye movement patterns of those born and raised in England are different than the eye movement patterns of those born and raised in China. Culture can play a big role in how our bodies and our eyes function.

What is Eye Movement?

Eye movement can be voluntary or involuntary. For example when you hear a noise just above your head you may make the conscious decision to move your eyes upward to see what happened. These eye movements help the body to better see and focus on visual stimuli. Eye movements are also commonly used as a test for brain injuries and diseases. For example some eye movement tests are used in diagnosing diseases like schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis.

What Was the Purpose of This Study?

This study was performed to help researchers understand how the brain controls eye movements. It also provided valuable information that can be used to better hone and perfect testing methods for diseases using eye movement. For example many of the tests that are currently used worldwide that use eye movement to test for brain injury and disease may not be effective in some populations due to the fact that eye movements can vary by population and culture.

How Was the Study Completed?

This study was a collaborative effort between researchers in England and China. The research team focused their testing on a type of eye movement called saccades. These are fast eye movements where both eyes shift in a similar direction at the same time. Participants in the study, both in England and in China, were asked to use their eyes to respond to spots of light that appeared on either side of their visual field. The reaction times to their responses were then measured.

One interesting thing that researchers found was that the Chinese participants exhibited a type of eye movement that is not commonly seen in Caucasian populations. This type of eye movement was commonly observed amongst the Chinese participants, although it was previously considered very rare except in cases of brain disease or injury. This indicated that eye movements can be influenced by culture and that testing for injury or disease using eye movements alone might not be effective in a worldwide population.

The common and expected response to the saccade testing was a response time of a fifth of a second of delay between the time that the visual cue was displayed and the time that the eye moved. In the British population this expected response was exhibited in 97% of those tested. Only 3% of the British test subjects showed a faster response time. However in the Chinese group 30% of those tested exhibited the faster, more uncommon, response time. All participants in this study had normal, healthy vision and no known medical conditions that could influence their response times.

Lessons Learned from the Study

While this study provides just a preliminary look into the ways that different cultures process visual stimuli and move their eyes, it does pose some interesting questions. Researchers must now learn how culture influences eye movement and what this means for brain function and activity. This study does suggest however that different cultures may have differences in brain structure which could lead to new research and developments about the human brain.

This research also indicates that standard testing for brain disorders and diseases may require more than just eye movement. Since different cultures may move their eyes differently, it is important to find a testing method that will work for all patients.

Another interesting finding of the study is that it indicates that physical makeup is not the only influence on the way that our eyes work. It is in fact very possible that other factors like education, work, social interaction and more play an influencing factor on the way we see and process signals.

More research is needed, but this interesting study from the University of Liverpool brings to light some interesting factors regarding the role that culture plays in the movement of the eye.


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