Researchers at Lancaster University, in association with several NHS trusts, are conducting a study to investigate eye movements as a possible way to help diagnose Alzheimer’s disease.

The MODEM – Diagnosing Alzheimer’s Disease using eye movement study records eye movements and performance on cognitive tests to identify whether eye movements are related to other functions of the brain, and ultimately whether these eye movements can be an aid to diagnose dementia in the future.

We spoke to Dr Crawford, Chief Investigator of the study to find out more.

Dr Trevor J. Crawford

Dr Trevor J. Crawford

What are the main aims of MODEM study?

The MODEM project proposes to tackle measurement of dementia severity and progression with eye tracking and novel strategies for cognitive health assessment embedded with everyday activities such as watching TV and tea-making. Our vision is that rather than patients having to attend a clinic or laboratory for assessment, eye movement data can be collected in settings where people’s behaviour is relaxed and natural.

What does it involve for a participant?

Participants will be presented with a series of short visual tasks on a computer screen, while an infra-red eye-tracking camera will be used to record participants’ eye movements.

Participants will then be asked to watch three, two-minute videos in a more natural situation, so the eye movements can be compared in these two settings.

Participants will also be asked to complete several tasks that test memory and attention.  This will involve a series of simple questions that will help to provide more information to help us identify whether the eye movements are related to other functions of the brain.

How long is the study for? / Is it a one-off visit?

Participation in this phase of the research will require a single visit. However, the study will run until 2018, so there is opportunity to partake in follow-up assessments in future years.

What do you hope the outcomes of the study will be?

We hope to advance knowledge of the relationship of eye movement and dementia. We expect to produce new knowledge by focussing on people with dementia’s eye movement in naturalistic settings, in relation to disease severity and disease progression over time. The goalpost for the end of the project is to formulate emerging insights in well-grounded propositions for a clinical trial.

We aim to develop computerised methods for measuring dementia disease progression using eye movements. We will look to do this by developing formulas that identify different eye movements that can be used to measure disease severity and progression.

Why are you interested in dementia research?

A major issue for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease is that the cause of Alzheimer’s disease starts long before symptoms start.  Earlier diagnosis will enable new treatments to be better tailored to treat the cause of the disease.


Participants need to be 55 or over, living in the Lancashire/Greater Manchester regions and have Mild Cognitive Impairment.

MRIYou can see if you are eligible for any of these studies and various dementia research studies across the nation by logging into your ‘Join dementia research’ account.
Still not registered with ‘Join dementia research’? Why not sign up today?