Eye movement test to check for psychiatric disorders wins award
11 October 2013
An eye movement test to assist diagnosis of major adult
psychiatric disorders has won the Converge Challenge, a
national contest recognising Scotland’s entrepreneurial innovations.
Devised by researchers from the University of Aberdeen, the test
recognises unusual eye movements to help clinicians identify
illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe
The business plan to commercialise the test for use in mental health care
worldwide competed against five other finalists in the 2013
Converge Challenge Awards last month, and won the first
prize of £60,000.
Dr Philip Benson, a senior lecturer in Psychology and one of the
academics behind the test said: “Delivering an accurate and timely
diagnosis remains one of the most pressing responsibilities of
modern psychiatry. There aren’t any objective diagnostic tests
available to routinely validate decisions made by clinicians.
“It has been known for over a hundred years that individuals with
psychotic symptoms are unable to smoothly track slowly moving
objects with their eyes. Their gaze tends to lag behind the object
and then catch up with it by making rapid skips called saccades.
Professor David St Clair, Chair of Mental Health at the
University of Aberdeen and a consultant psychiatrist at NHS Grampian
said: “Our test will help clinicians arrive at an informed diagnosis
much sooner and reduce the time patients spend in clinics. This will
mean they receive appropriate treatment sooner too, helping them
resume a more normal life. We believe the test may also have the
potential to identify individuals who are at risk of developing
mental health problems before they arise.”
Supporting the academic team to address the many challenges in delivering this type of assistive tool into the broad sphere of global healthcare is Mr Madhu Nair, a technology entrepreneur and Satire Fellow with experience in developing early stage opportunities in the software and life science sectors both in the UK and US.
The development of the commercial opportunities for the test is being supported by the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Enterprise Fellowship scheme, the University of Aberdeen and the Executive Director Designate Programme, a funding scheme run by the University of Strathclyde.
Mr Nair said: “Our simple eye movement tests can recognise
schizophrenia and other major psychiatric disorders with better than
95% accuracy and within 30 minutes – a step change for psychiatry.
The need is significant with 1 in 5 adults suffering from some form
of mental ill health during their lifetime and 5% developing major
psychiatric disorders. A staggering US$2.5T is spent annually due to
mental ill health which is the largest cause of disability
The 2013 Converge Challenge Awards took place on 24 September 24 at Heriot-Watt University’s Edinburgh Campus.
The competition is open to staff postgraduate and final year
students of all Scottish Universities and Research Institutes and is
the largest business competition and entrepreneurial training
programme in Scotland.
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