Research published in the scientific journal PLOS One suggests that children with epilepsy have irregularities in their pattern of saccadic eye movement. This refers to the fast, jerking movement of the eyes that allows people to scan their environment and build a mental 3D image of it.According to the authors of the study, these irregularities may be indicative of abnormal development of the cerebral cortex – the outer layer of the brain that plays a role in memory, attention, perception, awareness, thought, language and consciousness – and disrupted communication between different areas of the brain.These results suggest that it may be beneficial to assess eye movement as part of neuropsychological assessments in people with epilepsy, because it could provide doctors with valuable information about the person’s cognitive function, the progress of their condition and the effectiveness of treatment.The researchers, led by Dr Trevor Crawford, Reader of Neuropsychology at Lancaster University, analysed the saccadic eye movement of 26 children with epilepsy aged 8 to 18 and compared this to the saccadic eye movement of 48 healthy controls in the same age range.The team asked the children to look at a fixation point and presented them with a visual target. They then asked the children to make a saccade away from the target (known as antisaccade) or towards the target (known as (prosaccade).The researchers analysed a number of factors about the subjects’ eye movements, including speed of response, accuracy, error rate and maximum speed of eye movement, and then compared the results of those with epilepsy who were taking  antiepileptic drug (AEDs), those with epilepsy who were not taking AEDs and healthy controls.They found that children with epilepsy who were taking AEDs had a more variable processing speed, reduced accuracy, increased maximum eye speed and made a greater number of errors.Younger children with epilepsy who were not taking AEDs showed deficits in realising their own errors (error monitoring), which were related to attention problems that had been reported in them.Saccadic eye movements can be used to evaluate different aspects of brain function. In epilepsy they could be used to follow how the condition progresses and assess how well an AED works.Author: Dr Özge ÖzkayaClick here for more articles about brain science including genetics.