Category: Research

2015 in Review at the USC Roski Eye Institute

Los Angeles USC Roski Eye Institute Review2015 was a remarkable year for the USC Roski Eye Institute at Keck School of Medicine of USC. Not only did our Department of Ophthalmology celebrate its 40th anniversary, but our team of accomplished physicians and researchers were honored with numerous awards and made incredible strides in advancing our unending pursuit of preventing blindness and restoring sight to those who suffer from vision loss. Here is a brief look at just some of the biggest accomplishments and milestones of the USC Roski Eye Institute in 2015.

USC Roski Eye Institute Ranks Among Top 10 Ophthalmology Hospitals

The USC Roski Eye Institute was honored to be named one of the top 10 ophthalmology hospitals according to U.S. News and World Report for 2015-2016. The annual hospital rankings are a consumer service aimed at helping patients find the best medical care in the nation, whether for general or specialty care. U.S. News and World Report evaluates each hospital based on patient safety, mortality rates, and reputation among nearly 9,500 physicians in the U.S. Receiving such high praise from our colleagues is an honor that we hope to continually earn.

“Bionic Eye” Argus II Restores Functional Sight in 72-Year-Old Woman

With the assistance of Dr. Mark Humayun, Prof. of Ophthalmology at the USC Roski Eye Institute and co-inventor of the Argus II bionic retinal implant, a 72-year-old women who had been blind for two years was able to regain functional sight. The patient had lost her sight as a result of a genetic disease called retinitis pigmentosa, which is a genetic degenerative eye disease. Dr. Humayun and Dr. Gregg T. Kokame of the Eye Surgery Center of Hawaii conducted the groundbreaking bionic retinal implant surgery with great success, restoring the patient’s ability to at least see shades of gray initially.

USC Roski Eye Institute Provides Earthquake Relief in Nepal

Two massive earthquakes, the first a magnitude of 7.8 and and the aftershock a 7.3, struck Nepal in April and May of 2015. Thousands of people lost their lives or were injured by the devastating earthquake that reached as far as Bangladesh, China, and India. The world responded by sending aid to those who had lost so much in a matter of minutes. USC Roski Eye Institute sent a six-member medical trauma team to Nepal to help provide medical and surgical care, as well as shelter and food.  Additionally, USC Roski Eye Institute was able to raise thousands of dollars for those in Nepal with the help of USC alumnus and former resident and colleague at Keck School of Medicine of USC.

40th Anniversary of the USC Department of Ophthalmology

The USC Roski Eye Institute celebrated the Department of Ophthalmology’s 40th anniversary at the renowned Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens with a full-day academic symposium. Nearly 400 eye care professionals attended with USC President C.L. Max Nikias, PhD, Dean of Keck School of Medicine of USC Carmen A. Puliafito, MD, MVA, and Thomas E. Jackiewicz, MPH, senior vice president and CEO, Keck Medicine of USC among many others. Stanley Chang, MD, of the K.K. Tse and Ku Teh Ying Professor of Ophthalmology at Columbia University also received the inaugural USC Roski Eye Institute Laureate Award for his work in vitreoretinal surgery and his many contributions to the field.

Contact the Renowned Ophthalmologists at USC Roski Eye Institute

Please do not wait to make an appointment with a skilled ophthalmologist at USC Roski Eye Institute for comprehensive eye exams and the most state-of-the-art, advanced treatments available for vision problems and disorders.

To help support the USC Roski Eye Institute, make a tax-deductible gift today by contacting Rebecca Melville, senior director of development, at 323.442.5396 or via email at

Next, read What are the Signs of Angle Closure Glaucoma?

Literacy Deficiency Found in Children with Uncorrected Farsightedness

USC Pediatric OphthalmologyThe University of Southern California (USC) Eye Institute, one of the nation’s Top 10 ophthalmology programs according to U.S. News & World Report, is announcing a call to action for all parents and educators to ensure children receive proper eye exams at an early age. Through awareness, education and early interventions, the USC Roski Eye Institute believes we can stem the tide of recent pediatric eye disease sight that may contribute to a reduction in the younger generation’s quality of life.

A new National Eye Institute (NEI)-funded study highlights that preschoolers ages 4 and 5 with uncorrected farsightedness (hyperopia), where children have difficulty seeing close-up, performed poorly on literacy tests relative to those with normal vision.

Researchers in the Vision in Preschoolers-Hyperopia in Preschoolers (VIP-HIP) study implemented a Preschool Early Literacy (TOPEL) test to examine the reading skills of 492 children.  Eye exams were conducted on all children prior to administering the TOPEL.  In the reported results, a substantial literacy deficit was observed in children with moderate farsightedness (3-6 diopters).  Relative to the mild form, moderate farsightedness is associated with an increased number of diopters, which is the unit of measure of lens power that is required to correct vision. Most notably in this study, children with moderate farsightedness and reduced near visual function such as depth perception, had significant challenges in the print knowledge domain of the test, which assesses the ability to distinguish letters and words.

Elise Ciner, O.D., professor at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University in Philadelphia, and co-investigator of the study stated that, “Preschool children with moderate hyperopia and decreased near vision may benefit from referral for assessment of early literacy skills.” Ciner also indicated that early interventions in these children might provide a better educational outcome.

While a small percentage of children known to have severe farsightedness are corrected with prescription eyeglasses, it is common for cases of moderate farsightedness to go undetected.  “This study adds to the growing concerns surrounding the prevalence of eye conditions such as moderate farsightedness in children,” says Rohit Varma, MD, MPH, who is the Chair of the USC Roski Eye Institute, Interim Dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and epidemiology expert in eye diseases.

The results of the VIP-HIP study come on the heels of the recently completed Multi-Ethnic Pediatric Eye Disease Study (MEPEDS), conducted by researchers and clinicians from the USC Roski Eye Institute at Keck Medicine of USC in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, which assessed childhood eye disease in over 9000 Los Angeles area children ages 6 months to 6 years.

While 4-14% of children overall are found to have moderate farsightedness, the MEPEDS found that children in specific racial/ethnic groups are at higher risk of developing farsightedness. The prevalence of farsightedness (+2 diopters or greater) was highest in Hispanic (26.9%) and Non-Hispanic White children (25.7%), but lower in African American (20.8%) and Asian children (13.5%). Thus, non-Hispanic white and Hispanic children are twice as likely to be farsighted than Asian children. Two other significant observations made in the study were that moderate levels of farsightedness was associated with the development of both amblyopia (lazy eye- poor visual development in an eye) and strabismus (misalignment of the eyes).

“Studies such as these are crucial.  Knowing the risk factors associated with farsightedness along with the impact that it can have on the intellectual development of our children, should be considered when creating guidelines for screening and intervention in preschool children,” says Varma. “The results emphasize the importance of vision screening in children at an early age, as detection and treatment of farsightedness, can lead to a more promising future for our children.”

About the USC Roski Eye Institute

The USC Roski Eye Institute, part of the Keck Medicine of USC university-based medical enterprise, has been a leader in scientific research and innovative clinical treatments for 40 years. Among the top three funded academic-based medical centers by the National Eye Institute (NEI) research grants and ranked in the Top 10 ophthalmology programs in U.S. News & World Report‘s annual “Best Hospitals” issue for more than 20 years, the USC Roski Eye Institute is headquartered in Los Angeles with clinics in Arcadia, Beverly Hills and Pasadena.

Patients from across the country come to see the USC Roski Eye Institute experts who treat a comprehensive array of eye diseases across the life spectrum from infants to aging seniors. The USC Roski Eye Institute is known for its scientific research and clinical innovation including: creation of the Argus implant (also known as the “bionic eye”) for retinitis pigmentosa (RP) patients; stem cell therapies for those who have age-related macular degeneration; discovery of the gene that is the cause of the most common eye cancer in children; treatment for eye infections for AIDS patients; inventors of the most widely used glaucoma implant in the world; pioneers of a device for long-term intraocular drug delivery; and the first to use telesurgery to train eye doctors in developing countries.  For more information visit: or

Next, read USC Study Uncovers New Approach to Treating Dry Eye Syndrome

USC Study Uncovers New Approach to Treating Dry Eye Syndrome

USC Eye Injury Prevention TipsMillions of people suffer from the discomfort of dry eye syndrome. From irritation, redness, and sensitivity to light, dry eyes can make everyday life uncomfortable, to the say the least. Fortunately, researchers from the Fini Lab at Keck Medicine USC may have found that a possible solution to this overwhelmingly common condition could lie in a tear protein called clusterin.

“It is well known that clusterin protects cells and proteins,” said Shinwu Jeong, assistant professor of research ophthalmology in the Institute for Genetic Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the senior author of the study. “A problem in dry eye appears to be that natural clusterin is depleted. We predicted that adding it back would be beneficial. However, the novel mechanism of sealing was unexpected.”

During the study, researchers noted that clusterin helps seal the ocular surface, creating a protective barrier that helps prevent further damage.

What is Dry Eye Syndrome?

Dry eye syndrome is caused by chronic dehydration and poor lubrication of the ocular surface, causing a disruption of the barrier function. Many people develop dry eye as a result of environmental exposure, allergies, eye surgery, medications, or the effects of aging. While it may seem like a mild irritation, the condition can lead to vision loss if the cornea is scratched or damaged if left untreated long enough. Common symptoms include:

  • Inflammation
  • Burning sensation
  • Aching feeling
  • Soreness
  • Red appearance
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Fatigued eyes

Typically, dry eye symptoms are treated with lubricating eye drops or artificial tears, as well as taking breaks from reading or using a computer or smartphone. Additionally, prescription eye medications may help increase tear production or reduce eye inflammation and irritation, but these treatment options fail to prevent the symptoms from returning.

A Promising Solution

Rather than studying the tear production, inflammation, and chemistry that causes or contributes to dry eyes, the USC researchers focused on the protecting the ocular surface barrier. By strengthening the barrier with clusterin, the researchers hope to not only prevent and treat dry eye, but also other corneal disorders in which the ocular surface barrier is damaged. The researchers were the first to examine how the clusterin tear protein functions in dry eye.

Other USC co-authors include faculty members Wendy Mack of preventive medicine, J. Martin Heur, MD, PhD of ophthalmology and Janet Moradian-Oldak of the Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC.

Learn More from USC Roski Eye Institute

If you or someone you love is suffering from dry, irritated eyes or other eye conditions, the USC Roski Eye Institute is committed to providing the solutions to make everyday life easier. To learn more from our renowned ophthalmology team and our treatment options, please do not hesitate to give us a call at (323) 348-1526 or submit a contact form today.

For more information about the USC Roski Eye Institute or to support the Institute by making a tax-deductible gift, please contact Rebecca Melville, senior director of development, at 323.442.5396 or via email at

Next, read USC Roski Eye Institute Improves Image Sharpness in Retinal Implants

USC Roski Eye Institute Improves Image Sharpness in Retinal Implants

FDA Approved Retinal Prosthesis, Argus IIRetinitis pigmentosa (RP) is an inherited eye disease that causes gradual degeneration of the light sensitive photoreceptors in the retina, which eventually leads to total blindness. Roughly one in 4,000 people suffer from the debilitating disease; however, according to a recent study by researchers from the USC Roski Eye Institute and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, patients who have regained some vision with the help of revolutionary retinal implants may gain even better, sharper vision.

The Argus II retinal implant, also called the bionic eye, was developed by ophthalmologists and engineers at USC to help people once again perceive light through a pair of eyeglasses that feature a video camera mount and a video processing unit. The implant transforms images via the camera into electronic signals that are wirelessly transmitted to implanted electrodes in the eye in order to stimulate visual neurons.

While retinal implants have been able to provide blind individuals with some degree of vision, such as the ability to find large objects or detect motion, the devices also inadvertently triggered axons in the retina, resulting in reduced vision quality. When the axons are triggered, patients would see large, unusual shapes of light that interfere with the patients’ overall vision.

The USC researchers determined that by using various durations of stimulus pulses, it was possible to create more precise stimulus that would not interfere with the axons in the retina nearly as much as with shorter pulses. For example, electrical pulses of only eight milliseconds or shorter would stimulate the axons and obscure the patients’ vision, whereas pulses of at least 25 ms did not produce any signs of axonal stimulation, providing a clearer focal spot of light.

“Our findings further support that it is possible for patients with RP to see forms using artificial vision,” said James Weiland, PhD, professor of ophthalmology and biomedical engineering. “This makes a strong case for developing high-resolution retinal implants.”

What is Retinitis Pigmentosa?

RP occurs when the light sensitive cells (rods and cones) of the retina on the back of the eye begin to degenerate and die. The condition causes a gradual loss of vision as more and more of the retina cells stop working. The progression of RP will depend on which rods and cones are affected first. Some patients experience night blindness initially, while others may notice a decrease in central vision and color. The rate of progression will also depend largely on each patient.

Contact Our Expert Ophthalmologists Today

To protect your vision and ensure the highest quality of care, schedule an annual eye exam with the professional ophthalmologists at USC Roski Eye Institute. Regular screenings and exams will help accurately catch potential issues that may develop into serious eye conditions, such as retinitis pigmentosa. Take preventative action early. Make an appointment with a skilled ophthalmologist today.

Help support the USC Roski Eye Institute by making a tax-deductible gift! Contact Rebecca Melville, senior director of development, at 323.442.5396 or via email at today!

Next, read Prescription Medication May Help Reverse Vision Loss Caused by Diabetic Eye Disease in Certain Populations

Prescription Medication May Help Reverse Vision Loss Caused by Diabetic Eye Disease in Certain Populations

Diabetes and EyesA common prescription medication for age-related vision loss called ranibizumab may hold the key to successfully treating vision loss caused by diabetes in Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites, according to a recent study led by researchers at USC Roski Eye Institute.

Currently, the standard treatment for diabetic macular edema and diabetic retinopathy, which are the leading causes of vision loss in working-age adults in the U.S, is typically laser surgery. Unfortunately, laser surgery has had relatively low success in treating the blurred vision of more advanced stages of diabetic eye diseases. Previous studies have found that only 30 percent of patients who underwent laser surgery experienced vision improvement.

What are Diabetic Retinopathy and Diabetic Macular Edema?

Diabetic retinopathy causes damage to the small blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye, resulting in distorted vision or blindness. The condition progresses through four stages, in which the tiny blood vessels swell, potentially bleed, become blocked, and increase in number, ultimately damaging the cells of the retina if not treated.

Diabetic macular edema occurs when fluid builds up in the central region of the retina called the macula. The macula helps provide sharp, clear details and allows people to recognize faces and read. This condition develops as a result of diabetic retinopathy and can occur at any stage.

The symptoms of both of these diabetic eye diseases include seeing floating spots, blurred vision, or total vision loss.

Groundbreaking Research

Using a population-based model, director of the USC Roski Eye Institute, professor and chair of ophthalmology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and Interim Dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC, Rohit Varma, M.D., M.P.H., and his research team determined that providing at least .3 milligrams of the prescription medication ranibizumab every four weeks to patients with diabetic macular edema could reduce the number of vision loss cases by at least 45 percent and the number of legal blindness cases by up to 75 percent.

Nearly 37,000 Hispanic and non-Hispanic white adults who had been diagnosed with diabetic macular edema in the U.S. participated in the study. The researchers believe that even more populations and ethnic groups may benefit from the vision-saving effects of ranibizumab.

“We found that ranibizumab can save the sight of thousands of working-age individuals suffering from diabetic eye disease, as standard treatments such as laser are not as effective,” said Dr. Varma.

Schedule an Appointment Today

Our expert ophthalmologists at USC Roski Eye Institute have extensive training and experience diagnosing and treating a wide variety of vision-threatening conditions, such as diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema. To receive a comprehensive exam and ensure that your eyesight is carefully monitored, please complete our online contact form or call 323-348-1526 today! Remember that annual eye exams are an essential step in long-term eye care.

To learn more about our services or to support the Institute with a tax-deductible gift, please contact Rebecca Melville, senior director of development, via email at or by calling USC Roski Eye Institute.

Next, read February is National AMD and Low Vision Awareness Month

February is National AMD and Low Vision Awareness Month

AMD VisionWhen reading a book, driving your kids to school, or meeting up with friends for dinner, it’s likely that you don’t stop to think about your eyesight. In fact, it’s safe to say that most people take their vision for granted despite what a pivotal role this sense plays in everyday life. Vision loss can result from birth defects, trauma/injury, eye disease, complications from other diseases or even age. Receiving a low vision diagnosis can be devastating, which is why the month of February is dedicated to raising awareness for low vision in general as well as eye diseases in the aging population that cause vision loss such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The researchers and clinicians at the USC Roski Eye Institute have made great strides in diagnosing and treating low vision, and strongly believe that taking a proactive approach to eye care can lead to early detection and prevention.

Advancing Low Vision Research

AMD Vision Results
Through the eyes of a person with AMD

Our researchers have been working to help veterans with traumatic brain injuries that have caused visual impairment. Professor of Ophthalmology and Biomedical Engineering, James Weiland, PhD and his research team have created a prototype wearable visual aid (WVA) that is based on a smartphone system that contains complex visual algorithms, as well as a head-mounted camera and audio aid. Through this device, a patient would be able to select an object using the smartphone controller and then correctly identify the item with the camera input. The device would then guide the patient using voice commands to grasp the object. Once fully optimized, the WVA is expected to greatly improve the lives of veterans and the general public who live with any level of visual impairment.

Improving the Prognosis of AMD

Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness and vision loss among people age 50 and older in the United States. AMD is a central retinal disease that damages the retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells that help support the photoreceptors (light sensitive cells) that process images. Mark S. Humayun, MD, PhD, and David R. Hinton, MD received nearly $38 million from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to develop a stem cell-based treatment for AMD. The team has developed a novel procedure in which a thin sheet of stem cell-derived RPE are placed beneath the diseased portion of the retina. The Phase 1 Clinical Trial has been approved and enrollment is underway.

For more information on our clinical trials please visit:

Learn More from Our Renowned Ophthalmology Team

In our continuing efforts to enhance the lives of those suffering, our physicians stay up-to-date on the most advanced methods in the diagnosis and treatment of vision loss.  Given the broad range of causes of vision loss, our multidisciplinary team of fellowship-trained experts, are dedicated to providing care within all areas of ophthalmic subspecialties. To learn more from our renowned ophthalmology team and our treatment options, please do not hesitate to give us a call at (323) 747-2223 or submit a contact form today to make an appointment.

For more information about the USC Roski Eye Institute or to support the Institute by making a tax-deductible gift, please contact Rebecca Melville, senior director of development, at 323.442.5396 or via email at

Next, read Today’s Cutting-Edge Advancements in Glaucoma Treatment

Today’s Cutting-Edge Advancements in Glaucoma Treatment

Diabetes and Eyes, Jet-Setting Health and MoreThe USC Roski Eye Institute has always been on the forefront of the latest advancements in glaucoma treatment. Our exceptional team of ophthalmologists have helped pioneer many of the life-changing treatment options now available for one of the most common causes of preventable blindness in the U.S. and worldwide.Interim Dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC, Professor and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology, Director of the USC Roski Eye Institute, and glaucoma expert, Rohit Varma, MD, MPH, has not only led the way in improving glaucoma treatments, but he has also co-authored and co-edited several textbooks on the subject, including the recently released Advanced Glaucoma Surgery, to help provide a comprehensive source of cutting-edge information regarding advanced glaucoma surgical techniques for other ophthalmologists, researchers, and students.

The Glaucoma Service at the USC Roski Eye Institute offers comprehensive care and treatment for the full range of glaucoma conditions. The following are some of the most state-of-the-art advancements available for preventing, diagnosing, and treating the group of diseases that make up glaucoma.

Glaucoma Drainage Devices

The USC Roski Eye Institute researchers have developed an effective alternative to trabeculectomies and tube shunts that have traditionally been used to relieve intraocular pressure (IOP) issues that damage the optic nerve. The stent is no wider than a human hair and consists of collagen-derived gelatin. The stent can be safely injected into the eye to allow the eye’s anterior chamber to continue circulating and draining fluid in the inner eye. The glaucoma stents, such as iStent, can be implanted within a matter of minutes.

Intraocular Pressure Sensors

Researchers at the USC Roski Eye Institute are also currently working on novel intraocular pressure sensors that would be implanted in the eye to accurately and continuously measure IOP on a daily basis. While it is possible to gauge intraocular pressure during an eye exam, the internal pressure of the eye changes regularly throughout a single day. If the pressure raises too high, even temporarily, the optic nerve can be damaged, leading to vision loss. An intraocular pressure sensor would track an individual’s IOP and transmit the information to a wireless receiver for an ophthalmologist to analyze and monitor for signs of glaucoma.

Drug Delivery Systems

Glaucoma is a chronic eye disease that can be managed or slowed down with certain medications depending on the patient. However, administering the appropriate medication on a consistent basis, especially as eye drops, can be difficult for many patients. The USC Roski Eye Institute researchers have developed a minuscule implantable pump that can deliver medication at regular intervals directly into the eye. The implant is refillable and can be programmed and recharged with the convenience of a wireless device.

Advancing Eye Care at USC Roski Eye Institute

The board-certified ophthalmologists at the USC Roski Eye Institute are experienced at diagnosing and treating glaucoma as well as conducting clinical trials to help advance eye care treatments to prevent vision loss. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us by completing our online contact form or simply calling (323) 745-2223. We are located in Los Angeles, Arcadia, Beverly Hills, and Pasadena.

For more information about the USC Roski Eye Institute or to support the Institute by making a tax-deductible gift, please contact Rebecca Melville, senior director of development, at 323.442.5396 or via email at

Next, read Find Answers to Frequently Asked Questions for Glaucoma Awareness Month

3 Things You Should Know About Your Sight

New Study by USC Roski Eye Institute Shows RanibizumaOur eyes are highly complex organs that are almost constantly working, both voluntarily and involuntarily. Even while we sleep, our eyes move in connection with brain activity as we dream and recharge for the next day. Needless to say, we rely heavily on our eyes to properly function, yet often fail to take the appropriate measures to ensure that they will continue working well into our old age.

At USC Roski Eye Institute, we place the utmost importance on helping people of all ages learn about proper eye health and what to do in the event that their vision is impaired. The following information will help put the health of your sight in perspective.

1. 80 Percent of Disease-Related Vision Loss Can be Treated or Prevented

The World Health Organization recently reported that as much as 80 percent of all visual impairment can actually be prevented or cured through education about proper eye health, better access to high quality care, and annual screenings. The most common eye conditions that can lead to blindness include cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, and glaucoma, which often do not present any noticeable symptoms during the early stages of development. Therefore, it is crucial to schedule regular eye exams as often as recommended, based on your age, health, and family history, even if your sight seems to be perfectly fine. Early detection is the best defense against vision loss.

2. Diabetes is the Leading Cause of Blindness Among Americans

Diabetes is a metabolic disease that puts individuals at a significantly higher risk of developing certain eye diseases, such as cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. While proper diet and exercise is important for everyone at any age, diabetics must take special care to not only manage their diabetes, but to also ensure that the disease does not damage their eyesight. Diabetes may be the leading cause of blindness in America, but it is possible for diabetics to protect their vision by also taking control of their overall health.

3. Two Thirds of all Blindness and Vision Loss Occurs in Women

Prevent Blindness, a volunteer eye health and safety organization, recently determined that women make up the majority of Americans who suffer from visual impairment or blindness and that one in four women has not had an eye exam in the last two years. One reason that women are particularly at risk for vision issues is hormones. Whether pregnant, taking birth control pills, or going through menopause, fluctuations in hormones can influence overall eye health, causing high blood pressure, light sensitivity, and diabetic retinopathy.

Schedule an Appointment Today

At the USC Roski Eye Institute, our expert ophthalmologists have extensive training and experience diagnosing and treating a wide variety of eye conditions in men, women, and children. To receive a comprehensive eye exam and ensure that your vision is carefully monitored, please complete our online contact form or call 323-442-6335 today!

To learn more about the services at the USC Roski Eye Institute or to support the Institute with a tax-deductible gift, please contact Rebecca Melville, senior director of development, via email at or by calling USC Roski Eye Institute.

Next, read What Eye Contact Can Tell Us About Political Candidates (and Others!)

What Eye Contact Can Tell Us About Political Candidates (and Others!)

USC Roski Eye Institute Eye ContactThe 2016 presidential election campaigns are well underway as the latest candidates competing for the White House make daily appearances in the media, holding rallies and participating in debates. From the very first televised debate in 1960, it is clear that a candidate’s composure in front of the camera and interaction with their opponents are incredibly important for his or her elect-ability.

However, while most of today’s candidates are well-practiced and polished before stepping foot on stage, there’s an important component to pay attention to that is muc more difficult to control – the eyes.

Eye contact is a powerful form of non-verbal communication that can convey everything from our emotional state and intentions, as well as our power and dominance. So, what can eye contact tell us about the men and women running for office?

The Politics of the Eyes

Researchers have uncovered the many meanings behind a simple glance, a wink, or an extended stare. Numerous studies have noted that non-verbal communication and visual attention can reveal more than a person’s feelings, but also personal information. In fact, eye contact, or lack thereof, is often cited as one of the first indications that a child has autism. So, when watching the 2016 candidates or dealing with others in everyday life, keep these eye cues in mind.

We also know from research that high status individuals feel free to stare more at others, to look less as they listen, and to command a larger visual space.

Forced Eye Contact – It is commonly believed that forcing another person to hold eye contact beyond a comfortable length of time is one way to assert dominance, however, it can also be the quickest way to lose influence over another person. Not only is forced eye contact intimidating, but it tends to put others on defense, making it all the more likely that they will shut out any argument you are trying to make.

So, if a candidate is trying to lock eye contact with an opponent, it may be an indication that he or she is trying to force the other to submit to his or her idea.

Avoiding Eye Contact – Averting one’s gaze during a conversation can have one of two meanings: either the individual is insecure or submissive to a more aggressive, dominant personality, or second, the individual feels that the other person is inferior. Eye contact is a great indicator for how confident a person feels. By turning one’s eyes away, it can allow the viewer the power to watch him or her without challenge, or it can show the viewer that he or she does not value what the other is saying.

In a political debate, turning one’s eyes away can indicate that the listener does not agree with or value what the other is saying, or wants to dismiss the other person.

Rapid Blinking – When nervous or stressed, a person’s rate of blinking naturally increases, often indicating that the person is trying to think quickly. Many researchers have found the individuals begin to blink more often when trying to lie, and those who are aware of this “tell” may even try to force themselves to blink less to appear more calm.

It is not uncommon to see someone blinking rapidly during a heated argument or when confronted with uncomfortable topics.

Eye Rolling – Rolling one’s eyes is a blatant social cue that is used to consciously reject or dismiss another person. Presidential candidate Al Gore famously rolled his eyes throughout a political debate with George W. Bush in an effort to discredit his opponent. However, the excessive eye rolling, in combination with audible sighs, became so exaggerated that the audience was more uncomfortable than convinced by Gore’s efforts.

Eye Contact and Health

Needless to say, the eyes convey a wide range of social cues and information. However, the way we move our eyes can also indicate facts about our internal health. For example, jerky, uncontrolled eye movements can help identify whether a person has Parkinson’s Disease or other neurodegenerative issues, while holding longer visual fixations while processing information may indicate Alzheimer’s.

Contact USC Roski Eye Institute for Your Annual Eye Exam

It is important to receive a thorough eye exam from a professional optometrist or ophthalmologist on a yearly basis (depending on your age) to catch vision problems and get effective treatment. Please do not wait to make an appointment with a skilled ophthalmologist at USC Roski Eye Institute for a comprehensive eye exam using the most state-of-the-art technology available.

Support the USC Roski Eye Institute by making a tax-deductible gift by contacting Rebecca Melville, senior director of development, at 323.442.5396 or via email at today!

Next, read What Can You Do for Your Loved Ones in National Glaucoma Awareness Month