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Dr Phil Turnbull was awarded $360,000 in the recently announced prestigious Marsden Fund awards for his project Eye movements in three dimensions.

Abstract: To track a moving object, the eyes need a remarkable level of coordination. Objects moving sideways or vertically require both eyes to move similarly (version), while objects moving in depth require opposing eye movements (vergence). These movements integrate with further inputs, such as required velocity, head position, salience, and attention, to create a unified neuromuscular output to each eye. As this incorporates many regions of the brain, abnormalities in eye movements are a common consequence of neurological disease, degeneration, and injury.

Current clinical eye movement testing assesses versions and vergence independently, therefore bypassing this complexity, and limiting its diagnostic potential. This project will record eye gaze while participants track objects moving through three-dimensional space within a custom rig, while recording bilateral eye gaze, pupillary responses, and movement symmetry with consumer level hardware. This will capture the full integrative complexity of natural eye movements. By adapting these tests to virtual reality, we can incorporate additional sensory information including the vestibular and auditory systems, in a portable diagnostic system.

Outcomes from this study will inform the physiology of eye movements, improve the diagnostic accuracy and scope of eye movement testing in clinical practice, and contribute to the development of virtual reality technology.