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#1
Old 09-05-2009, 09:09 PM
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Rapid back-and-forth eye movements: what is this?

Another student in one of my classes has this strange eye condition. His eyes track back and forth rapidly and constantly. The movement is small but it's noticeable and has a very unsettling, almost creepy effect. I had chance to observe it for a while because he was sitting by the front of the room, facing me from my vantage point. I do not think he is doing it consciously as it seems to be going on all the time. What is it?
#2
Old 09-05-2009, 09:19 PM
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You may be thinking of nystagmus. I didn't realize I had this condition until this week, when it made it difficult to take certain tests.
#3
Old 09-05-2009, 09:27 PM
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I know two people with this condition, both males. My kids' cousin has a bad case of it; it's very hard to talk to him with his eyes jumping back and forth like that. The other guy's is just noticeable.

I can't remember the name for it, however.


ETA: the cousin has had it since birth. I don't know about the other guy but I suspect so.

Last edited by NinetyWt; 09-05-2009 at 09:28 PM.
#4
Old 09-05-2009, 10:26 PM
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I know two people whose eyes do this - one is a 3 year old girl, and one is a 21 year old teacher at my daughter's daycare. They are both extremely blonde (not quite albino but almost) with blue eyes.

I read a little bit after meeting the girl, and it is not something that can be corrected by surgery or anything, and it doesn't usually interfere with reading etc, I guess people with this situation learn to adapt? But I would imagine socially it must be hard, as any "difference" is.
#5
Old 09-05-2009, 10:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dewey Finn View Post
You may be thinking of nystagmus. I didn't realize I had this condition until this week, when it made it difficult to take certain tests.
I can oscillate my eyes back and forth voluntarily but much more rapidly than the eye on that Wikipedia page. Has anyone ever heard of that or know what it's called?

I can still do it as easily as rolling my tongue or making that spock gesture with my hand, although now that I think about it I really haven`t with any regularity since my pre-teen days when I was fascinated by it. It makes my vision look like someone is rapidly shaking the entire world or what you might see if you rapidly oscillated a video camera.
#6
Old 09-06-2009, 09:29 AM
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The actor Pruitt Taylor Vince does this. If you watch Nobody's Fool, it's very obvious. And somewhat creepy.
#7
Old 09-06-2009, 10:37 AM
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I used to have a student whose eyes did this, though I can't recall the name of the condition. She was Portuguese, with quite olive skin and dark hair (in response to the poster who'd noticed the condition in two very blonde people). She was partially sighted, and though she could read she had to hold the page right up to her eyes and seemed to look closely at it through one eye at a time. The rapid tracking is a little unsettling to watch.

May I add a possibly related query? (Feel free to ignore me if it's too far off the track.) Very occasionally, like maybe a few times a year, my eyes will suddenly and for no apparent reason flicker very quickly from side to side for maybe a second, or two at the most. I have no control over the movement and can't replicate it voluntarily. The only thing I can find that sounds like it is ocular flutter, but from what I've read so far that's usually a symptom of something more serious. This has been happening all my life, as far as I can recall. What is it, and is it common?
#8
Old 09-06-2009, 12:02 PM
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I believe you are referring to congenital nystagmus.
#9
Old 09-06-2009, 08:39 PM
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Yeah nystagmus it must be. FWIW the person I observed it in is blonde as well.

I don't think I could have a conversation with him and maintain any sort of sustained eye contact. It sort of reminds me of the eye movement someone might do when they are questioning you closely and looking for subtle expressions that might indicate insincerity or whatnot. But such a person is doing it all the time involuntarily, so it would just feel like one big interrogation.
#10
Old 09-07-2009, 12:47 AM
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What was rather un-nerving was trying to talk to my kids' cousin when he was a toddler. You could never tell if he was paying attention to you or not - even if his head was turned towards you, you couldn't really say he was "looking" at you. I think everyone just gradually got used to it.
#11
Old 09-07-2009, 01:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chefguy View Post
The actor Pruitt Taylor Vince does this. If you watch Nobody's Fool, it's very obvious. And somewhat creepy.
And his name's back-to-front.

I saw him doing this on Deadwood. It instantly puts him as a bad guy, which is a shame as sometimes he isn't playing the bad guy.
#12
Old 09-07-2009, 01:38 AM
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Yeah, it could be congenital nystagmus.

OR your student could be (like me and, apparently, Fuzzy Dunlop) part of the 8% of the population who can produce voluntary nystagmus, and maybe he's just messing with you.
#13
Old 09-07-2009, 02:56 AM
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Nystagmus is usually produced in order to stabilize vision. You will have some if you sit in a train and look outside the window, as you eyes track the visual environment. The one that you see on this page is visually-generated and is rather slow. It can also appear during large rotations of the head (e.g. on a rotating chair). In this case, the motion of the head is detected by the inner ear which produces the nystagmus. In this kind of nystagmus, you can see two kind of eye movements: slow tracking eye movements (towards the right of the screen in the video) and fast saccadic movements (to the left) which reset eye position. Inner ear problems can lead to a nystagmus. In this case it will be associated with vertigo as the inner ear is sending erroneous head motion information.

The other possible cause (which is probably the one involved here) is a problem in balancing the tension between various eyeball muscles (the ones that move the eye in the orbit) in order to keep the eye stationnary in the orbit. This is not so easy, especially since this balance changes when one looks to the side. This is normally learned by the brain; but this learning can be impaired in people with cerebellar problems (cerebellum is the "motor learning center" of the brain) or with poor visual acuity (e.g. albino).

Btw, lot of people have a little upward nystagmus, especially in darnkess, but this is normal (and so slow that you can usually not see it).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fuzzy Dunlop View Post
I can oscillate my eyes back and forth voluntarily but much more rapidly than the eye on that Wikipedia page. Has anyone ever heard of that or know what it's called?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Randy Seltzer View Post
Yeah, it could be congenital nystagmus.

OR your student could be (like me and, apparently, Fuzzy Dunlop) part of the 8% of the population who can produce voluntary nystagmus, and maybe he's just messing with you.
Whaow ! I had no cue that volontary nystagmus did exist, and that it was so frequent ! I have to find some people who can do this (and to read this article first). I have some colleagues at work who would be interested (well, I guess that they know already about this volontary nystagmus, but I'm sure they could use it in some way and didn't think about it. As for myself, I prefer playing with the chair).
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