Introducing the Ocular Motor Research Team

Our fourth Melbourne Brain Centre Feature Week was conducted in partnership with their Ocular Motor research team.  The week started with Associate Professor and Neuro-ophthalmologist, Owen White MD, introducing the team and explaining the eye movement research they undertake in relation to multiple sclerosis.

To understand aspects of the team’s research in more detail, the above video was complemented by the following summary of a study led by Dr Joanne Fielding.


It is well-known that problems with movements of the eyes (oculomotor abnormalities) are common in people with multiple sclerosis. The monitoring and measuring of these symptoms are routine and form part of the expanded disability status scale (EDSS). However, it is also suggested that oculomotor function could be a good indicator of cognitive function, the assessment of which is not accurately covered by the EDSS.

To assess this potential novel diagnostic technique, Fielding et al performed a study whereby 25 people with MS underwent two tests to assess for impaired eye movement function. To support this data, a number of cognitive function tests were also performed that assessed a number of key areas commonly affected in people with MS. All studies were also performed on age and IQ matched healthy individuals. As hypothesised, people with MS were less accurate and made more errors during the eye movement tests than healthy controls. Interestingly, these results showed extensive correlation with the neuropsychological tests. In combination, these findings show a strong potential for the use of eye movement tests to monitor both the progression of disease and the level of cognitive function in people with MS.

The full paper was published in the Journal of Neurological Sciences (2009) by Fielding et al entitled “Multiple Sclerosis: Cognition and saccadic eye movements”.

As well as inform people of the research being undertaken, it was also important to demonstrate the types of tests a person might undertake if they were to participate in a study at the Melbourne Brain Centre.  To do this, researcher Lyn Millist took us through the process of performing an eye movement test, from setting up the machine through to reviewing the results.

As in previous features, members of our community were presented with an opportunity to talk directly with a member of the department via a Google Hangout.  In this instance, Owen White MD (introduced above) volunteered his time to discuss his team’s research, its role in enhancing our understanding of multiple sclerosis and how it may assist people living with multiple sclerosis in future.  You can watch the full replay of the discussion here.

Finally, the week ended with a short video that introduced the current and future studies being undertaken, relating specifically to multiple sclerosis.  If you are interested in participating in any of the projects mentioned, take note of the contact details provided at the end.