What’s the effect of childhood-onset nystagmus on the ability to balance?

Research details

  • Type of funding: Fight for Sight / Nystagmus Network Small Grant Award
  • Grant Holder: Dr Frank Proudlock
  • Institute: University of Leicester
  • Region: East Midlands
  • Start date: April 2015
  • End Date: March 2016
  • Priority: Quality of Life
  • Eye Category: Refractive error & ocular motility


Infantile nystagmus is the name for involuntary to and fro movement of the eyes that start in the first few months of life. It affects about 1 person in every 1000.

Nystagmus affects vision because it means there is constant motion on the light-sensitive sheet of cells at the back of the eye (the retina). Plus infantile nystagmus is often linked to disorders that affect the retina or the visual brain.

Standing upright and keeping your balance needs input from the visual system as well as from other senses, but we don’t yet know what effect infantile nystagmus has on balance.

The research team has developed a new way to study what effect the different aspects of vision have on the ability to balance. They have used 3D glasses to show moving objects together with a footplate that can sway in the opposite direction to body movement. In this study the researchers have been using a sensor to measure the position of their participants’ heads during the experiments.

The team aim to find out if balance is influenced by nystagmus, 3D vision, and problems with central or side (peripheral) vision. They hope the information can be used both to find out which patients may be at risk of balance problems and to give patients and health professionals good advice.