Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has for years been a diagnostic nightmare, hard to define and harder to identify, leading to many children taking Ritalin who should not be.
Now researchers at Tel Aviv University, Sheba Medical Center and the University of Haifa have announced that the condition can be reliably diagnosed by examination of involuntary eye movements which indicate the presence of ADHD, The Jerusalem Post reports.
Prior to this discovery, no reliable physiological markers existed for the diagnosis of ADHD.
Doctors instead reached a diagnosis based on a medical and social history of the patient and the family and observing the patient’s behavior. In some cases, Ritalin has been prescribed on little more than parental request, which in some cases improves concentration and academic performance even in children who do not suffer from ADHD. Improper prescription and overdosage is a widespread concern.
The researchers found a direct correlation between ADHD and the inability to suppress eye movement in the anticipation of visual stimuli. Improved performance by participants taking Ritalin was noted, which normalized the suppression of involuntary eye movements to the average level of a control group.
“This test is affordable and accessible, rendering it a practical and foolproof tool for medical professionals,” say the researchers. “With other tests, you can slip up, make ‘mistakes’ — intentionally or not. But our test cannot be fooled. Eye movements tracked in this test are involuntary, so they constitute a sound physiological marker of ADHD. Our study also reflected that methylphenidate does work. It is certainly not a placebo, as some have suggested.”