Non-invasive Eye Test a New Tool for Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder?

A simple eye test may become a new diagnostic tool for identifying mental disorders, such as bipolar disorder, researchers at Monash University have discovered.

In previous studies, lead researcher Dr. Steven Miller has shown that the rate of binocular rivalry—the switching of an individual’s visual perception from one image to the next—is very similar between identical twins but “substantially” less similar for non-identical twins. Now, Miller and his team of researchers have shown that testing binocular rivalry could be an indication of an individual’s mental health.

"A person without bipolar disorder will make the switch between images every one to two seconds,” Miller said. “However, a person with bipolar disorder takes three to four seconds, and up to 10 seconds, to switch between the images."

Study findings about binocular rivalry in patients with bipolar disorder link back to Miller’s earlier findings about the rates of the switch in sets of twins. The early study examined 348 sets of twins, 128 of whom were identical.

"By studying such a large group of identical and non-identical twins, we can determine the likelihood of genetics being responsible for certain biological traits," Miller said. These “results highlight the link between our genetic make-up and the manifestation of certain medical illnesses like bipolar disorder."

Though the new results are significant, Miller explained that more research needs to be done, and that the next step in the process of using binocular rivalry as a test for bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses is to test the reliability of the eye switch in recognizing a predisposition to, or a diagnosis of, bipolar disorder.

"There is a lot of work ahead to find biological markers that could be used to screen for a person's susceptibility to a particular inherited condition, paving the way for more accurate clinical diagnoses and more effective genetic studies," Miller said.

A simple eye test may become a new diagnostic tool for identifying mental disorders, such as bipolar disorder, researchers at Monash University have discovered.