From a patient’s perspective, clarity and insight about their condition is one of the reasons why many people pursue medical advice and treatment, which makes a lot of sense because patients aren’t expected to have a medical background and be able to diagnose and/or treat their symptoms.
Keeping this in mind, we must respect the fact that our brain’s and bodies are dynamic and complex, allowing us to adapt to our environment and create calculated movements to advance our survival. As we take a deeper look into the brain and it’s functionality, we start to discover how important and integral our vision is for proper brain function and performance.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, our eyes are a HUGE window into the brain, which is why providers and practitioners must be up-to-date on the neurology and physiology that goes into gaze stabilization, visual acuity, tracking, and making quick eye movements to objects in our environment.
On the surface, most of our vision is usually attributed to the eye ball itself, but a majority of our vision is actually an outcome of integration with the brain, the brainstem, and specific areas of the central nervous system that give us visual clarity, context, awareness of our surrounding, and most importantly, an ability to make accurate decisions about our environment.
In order to react and respond to our world in the most efficient way possible, our brains have adapted to the environment by possessing an ability to create very quick eye movements, know as saccades, which allow us to focus our eyes on an object of interest for observation. These saccades can be used as a way to assess brain functionality for diagnosing and evaluation of specific areas of the brain, but even more importantly, saccades can be used as therapy to rehabilitate various areas of the brain, which opens up an entirely new area of neuro-rehabilitation for those who suffer from complex neurological conditions such as traumatic brain injuries, concussions, strokes, etc.
As we learn more about saccades, we start to have a greater understanding of how important they are for cognitive processing, visuo-spatial awareness, and more importantly, allowing our brain to create an accurate depiction of our environment.
Any change in saccade velocity, latency, or accuracy can result in skewed perceptions of our environment and an array of symptoms that are commonly seen with the conditions previously described.
With that being said, it is important to understand that saccades are merely the start of the conversation about adequate brain function, but are a necessary step to take for adequate assessment, diagnostics, and subsequent interventions for brain-based rehabilitation.