Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

Paul A. Wetzel

Second Advisor

Mark S. Baron


Parkinson’s disease and Essential tremor are the two most prevalent movement disorders in the world, but due to overlapping clinical symptoms, accurate differential diagnosis is difficult. As a result, approximately 60% of patients with movement disorders symptoms will have their diagnosis changed at least once before death. By their subjective nature, clinical exams are inherently imprecise, leading to the desire to create an objective, quantifiable test for movement disorders; a test that currently is elusive. Eye movements have been studied for a century, and are widely appreciated to be quantifiably affected in those with neurological disease. Through a collaborative effort between the VA hospital and VCU, over 1,000 movement disorder subjects had their eye movements recorded, utilizing an SR Research Eyelink 2. Patients with Parkinson’s disease exhibited an ocular gaze tremor during fixation, normal reflexive saccades, and reduced blink rate. Subjects with Essential tremor exhibited slowed saccadic dynamics, with increased latencies, in addition to a larger number of square wave jerk interruptions of otherwise stable fixation. After diagnostic features of each disorder were identified, prospective data collection could occur in a blinded fashion, and oculomotor features used to predict clinical diagnoses. It was determined that measures of fixation stability were capable of almost perfectly differentiating subjects with PD, and a novel, combined parameter was capable of similar results in ET. As a group, it appears as if these symptoms do not progress as the disease does, but subanalyses show that individual patients on constant pharmaceutical doses tracked over time do slightly change and progress. The near perfect separation of disease states suggest the ability of oculomotor recording to be a powerful biomarker to be used for the differential diagnosis of movement disorders. This tool could potentially impact and improve the lives of millions of people the world over.


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Available for download on Monday, March 04, 2216