With the support of SIA "MikroTik" and the University of Latvia (LU) Foundation, researchers from the Department of Optometry and Vision Science (DOVS) of the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics (FPM) of the University of Latvia are developing an innovative approach to the assessment of children's reading disorders using the diagnostic method. DOVS project “Eyes were scared to read…” is one of the nine winners of the project competition in natural sciences and medicine organized by the University of Latvia Foundation. 

Although a variety of interactive sources of information are available today, more than 85% of knowledge is still gained through reading. Reading difficulties are common in children. They have a significant impact on the ability to learn school subjects. In addition, if the cause of a child's reading difficulties is not identified in time, reading problems persist later in life, thus hindering the chances of success in the professional environment. 

In 2013, as part of an extensive study, DOVS researchers determined that reading difficulties in school-age children in Latvia are often, but not always, related to changes in the functions of near vision, such as accommodation and vergence. In order to thoroughly evaluate the cause of reading difficulties, it is also important to evaluate the operation of the eye movement system - during reading a person performs sequential jumping word-to-word movements(saccades), so accurate and coordinated operation of the eye movement or oculomotor system activity is one of the basic conditions for successful acquisition of reading skills and reading itself. 

In the project “Eyes were scared to read…” approved in the competition organized by the University of Latvia Foundation, DOVS researchers will thoroughly evaluate the operation of the children's oculomotor system and its connection with reading skills. Based on an extensive and detailed analysis of eye movement records, norms for eye saccades, visual fixations, refixations, and slow-tracking eye movements will be established. In addition, in collaboration with Professor Ilona Heldal's research team from the University of Applied Sciences in Western Norway, the project will develop C&Look software developed by Norwegian colleagues. DOVS researchers will adapt this program to study the oculomotor system of vision in children. C&Look is used to evaluate eye movement parameters while performing eye movement analysis with a portable Tobii eye movement recorder. As the Tobii device works efficiently outside the laboratory, the performance of the oculomotor system can be evaluated by a wide range of participants. EUR 37,840 was allocated for the implementation of the project. 

Assessment of eye movements is usually performed under laboratory conditions using eye movement recording equipment. The equipment provides high-precision data on eye movement parameters, but the limited availability of equipment makes it difficult to use this informative method in the daily life of vision specialists. The innovative diagnostic method developed in the research will provide an opportunity for vision specialists to conveniently and meaningfully evaluate the parameters of eye movements also outside the laboratory - in optics and clinics. 


About the University of Latvia Foundation

Since 2004, the University of Latvia Foundation has provided an opportunity for patrons and cooperation partners to support both the University of Latvia and other leading Latvian higher education institutions, thus investing in the future of Latvia. The priorities of the LU Foundation are to support the best students and researchers, to promote the creation of a modern study environment, as well as the construction and reconstruction of university buildings.