Aakanksha Pathania, B.Optom

Tutor, Vision Science Academy Learning Centre (VSALC)


Vision Science Academy Exclusive

The eyes are indeed windows to the brain and mind. (1) When vision deteriorates, it can seriously affect brain and mental health. (2) Adapting physically to sensory loss is possible but coping with the mental and emotional toll of vision loss can be more challenging. (2)  Recognising the connection between vision loss and mental health can significantly ease the emotional burden and help improve overall well-being. (2)

Depression is the largest contributor to global disability, accounting for 7.5% of all years lived with a disability. It has been one of the top three leading causes of health loss for almost thirty years. (3) Efforts to find a reliable biomarker for depression in clinical practice have been unsuccessful. (4)

However, eye-tracking technology in mental disorders shows promising outcomes in addressing this issue. (4) Eye-tracking is a cost-effective and non-invasive method, making it accessible for researchers compared to neuroimaging. (4) Eye movements are a valuable tool for evaluating brain function in disorders that predominantly affect the brain stem and cerebellum. (1) They have emerged as a promising biomarker for diagnosing mental illness. (3)

Eye movement behaviors, such as saccades and pupil responses, have been extensively researched and are known to be associated with specific brain structures and networks, therefore, they can be utilised to pinpoint impaired functioning in specific brain regions and networks. (4)

Certain eye movement characteristics, such as exploratory eye movements, are recognised to change during development and can be influenced through reinforcement learning. (7)

By combining recent mathematical models of visual search and exploration, “eye movement training programs” for schizophrenia may improve visual cognition or social functioning in the future. (7) The identification of biomarkers suitable for clinical and personal recovery holds significant promise for individuals with mental illness and their supporters. (7)

Eye tracking systems capture the intricacies of eye movements with precision, monitoring gaze direction, duration of fixation, blink rate, and potential emotions expressed through eye movements. (5) The technology can reveal user intentions, preferences, and emotional states, providing valuable insights into human cognition. (5)

It decodes the language of the eyes, providing deep insights into human behavior. This enhances user experiences, making interactions more intuitive and efficient. (5)

EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing:

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a new form of psychotherapy gaining popularity for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). (6) EMDR uses a patient’s rapid, rhythmic eye movements to reduce the power of emotionally charged memories with the help of a therapist. EMDR has the potential to reduce the impact of negative emotions. (6)

Figure 1:  Healing emotions with eye motion

Despite the proven effectiveness of EMDR, it continues to be a topic of controversy among some healthcare professionals. (6)

This brings us to the conclusion that the relationship between mental health and vision is complex and multifactorial, and more research is needed to fully understand the link between the two. (8)

Regular eye check-ups and prioritising mental health care are crucial for overall well-being and maintaining healthy vision. (8)



  1. Shishido E, Ogawa S, Miyata S, Yamamoto M, Inada T, Ozaki N. Application of eye trackers for understanding mental disorders: Cases for schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorder. Neuropsychopharmacology reports. 2019 Jun;39(2):72-7.
  2. Vision loss and mental health: Learning to cope and overcome [Internet][Last accessed – 26 June 2024; 07:00 pm AEST] Available from: https://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/related/vision-loss-and-mental-health/
  3. Takahashi J, Hirano Y, Miura K, Morita K, Fujimoto M, Yamamori H, Yasuda Y, Kudo N, Shishido E, Okazaki K, Shiino T. Eye movement abnormalities in major depressive disorder. Frontiers in Psychiatry. 2021 Aug 10;12:673443.
  4. Noyes B, Biorac A, Vazquez G, Khalid-Khan S, Munoz D, Booij L. Eye-tracking in adult depression: protocol for a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ open. 2023 Jun 1;13(6):e069256.
  5. Decoding Human Behavior, The Power of Smart Eye’s Eye Tracking Technology [Internet] [Last accessed – 26 June 2024; 07:20 pm AEST] Available from: https://www.smarteye.se/blog/the-power-of-smart-eyes-eye-tracking-technology/
  6. EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing [Internet][ Last accessed – 26 June 2024; 07:15pm AEST] Available from:  https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/emdr-what-is-it
  7. Morita K, Miura K, Kasai K, Hashimoto R. Eye movement characteristics in schizophrenia: A recent update with clinical implications. Neuropsychopharmacology reports. 2020 Mar;40(1):2-9.
  8. Mental Health & Vision [Internet][Last accessed – 26 June 2024; 07:15pm AEST] Available from: https://beacheye.com/blog/mental-health-vision/