Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Retinal Scans Map Social Phobic Eye Movements

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Retinal Scans Map Social Phobic Eye Movements

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- Retinal scan readings confirm that social phobics avoid eye contact--a behavior that has been clinically observed but never empirically verified-- Kaye Horley reported at the annual conference of the Anxiety Disorders Association of America.

"The avoidance of eye contact we measured in social phobics is very telling about their feelings of self," said Ms. Horley, a doctoral student in clinical psychology at the University of Wollongong (Australia).

A computerized retinal scan recorded eye movements as subjects were shown a series of color digital photographs of the same individual with four facial expressions: neutral, happy, sad, and angry Scan paths of 22 subjects with generalized social phobia were compared with those of 22 gender-matched controls.

Included in the comparison were temporal eye movements, such as the number and duration of individual fixations, and spatial movements, such as scan path length.

Individuals in the control group showed an increasing fixation on the eyes across happy, neutral, sad, and angry expressions, while those with social phobia showed an increasing avoidance of eyes across the same emotions; fixation times on eyes of angry faces were significantly shorter for patients with social phobia. …

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