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Ask A REL Response

December 2021


What research has been conducted on using virtual reality eye movement detectors to help diagnose dyslexia?


Following an established REL Southeast research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles on teaching phonological awareness using print at the same time. We focused on identifying resources that specifically addressed teaching phonological awareness using print at the same time. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, and general Internet search engines (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. These references are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. Also, we searched the references in the response from the most commonly used resources of research, but they are not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist.

Research References

  1. Al Dahhan, N. Z., Kirby, J. R., Brien, D. C., & Munoz, D. P. (2017). Eye movements and articulations during a letter naming speed task: Children with and without dyslexia. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 50(3), 275–285.
    From the abstract: “Naming speed (NS) refers to how quickly and accurately participants name a set of familiar stimuli (e.g., letters). NS is an established predictor of reading ability, but controversy remains over why it is related to reading. We used three techniques (stimulus manipulations to emphasize phonological and/or visual aspects, decomposition of NS times into pause and articulation components, and analysis of eye movements during task performance) with three groups of participants (children with dyslexia, ages 9-10; chronological-age [CA] controls, ages 9-10; reading-level [RL] controls, ages 6-7) to examine NS and the NS-reading relationship. Results indicated (a) for all groups, increasing visual similarity of the letters decreased letter naming efficiency and increased naming errors, saccades, regressions (rapid eye movements back to letters already fixated), pause times, and fixation durations; (b) children with dyslexia performed like RL controls and were less efficient, had longer articulation times, pause times, fixation durations, and made more errors and regressions than CA controls; and (c) pause time and fixation duration were the most powerful predictors of reading. We conclude that NS is related to reading via fixation durations and pause times: Longer fixation durations and pause times reflect the greater amount of time needed to acquire visual/orthographic information from stimuli and prepare the correct response.”"
  2. Bellocchi, S., Muneaux, M., Bastien-Toniazzo, M., & Ducrot, S. (2013). I can read it in your eyes: What eye movements tell us about visuo-attentional processes in developmental dyslexia. Research in Developmental Disabilities: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 34(1), 452–60.
    From the abstract: “Most studies today agree about the link between visual-attention and oculomotor control during reading: attention seems to affect saccadic programming, that is, the position where the eyes land in a word. Moreover, recent studies show that visuo-attentional processes are strictly linked to normal and impaired reading. In particular, a large body of research has found evidence of defective visuo-attentional processes in dyslexics. What do eye movements tell us about visuo-attentional deficits in developmental dyslexia? The purpose of this paper is to explore the link between oculomotor control and dyslexia, taking into account its heterogeneous manifestation and comorbidity. Clinical perspectives in the use of the eye-movements approach to better explore and understand reading impairments are discussed.”
  3. Hawelka, S., Gagl, B., & Wimmer, H. (2010). A dual-route perspective on eye movements of dyslexic readers.Cognition, 115(3), 367–379.
    From the abstract: “This study assessed eye movement abnormalities of adolescent dyslexic readers and interpreted the findings by linking the dual-route model of single word reading with the E-Z Reader model of eye movement control during silent sentence reading. A dysfunction of the lexical route was assumed to account for a reduced number of words which received only a single fixation or which were skipped and for the increased number of words with multiple fixations and a marked effect of word length on gaze duration. This pattern was interpreted as a frequent failure of orthographic whole-word recognition (based on orthographic lexicon entries) and on reliance on serial sublexical processing instead. Inefficiency of the lexical route was inferred from prolonged gaze durations for singly fixated words. These findings were related to the E-Z Reader model of eye movement control. Slow activation of word phonology accounted for the low skipping rate of dyslexic readers. Frequent reliance on sublexical decoding was inferred from a tendency to fixate word beginnings and from short forward saccades. Overall, the linkage of the dual-route model of single word reading and a model of eye movement control led to a useful framework for understanding eye movement abnormalities of dyslexic readers. (Contains 4 figures and 2 tables.)”
  4. Vagge, A., Cavanna, M., Traverso, C. E., & Iester, M. (2015). Evaluation of ocular movements in patients with dyslexia. Annals of Dyslexia, 65(1), 24–32.
    From the abstract: “The aims of this study were to analyze the relationship between dyslexia and eye movements and to assess whether this method can be added to the workup of dyslexic patients. The sample was comprised of 11 children with a diagnosis of dyslexia and 11 normal between 8 and 13 years of age. All subjects underwent orthoptic evaluation, ophthalmological examinations, and eye movement analysis, specifically, stability analysis on fixating a still target, tracking saccades, analysis of fixation pauses, speed reading, saccades, and regressions through the reading of a text. Stability analysis on fixating a still target showed a significant difference between the two groups showing an increased amount of loss of fixation among dyslexic subjects . Tracking saccades (left and right horizontal axis) did not show a significant difference. When reading parameters were looked into (number of saccades, number of regressions, reading time through the reading of a text), a significant difference was found between the groups. This study supports the belief that the alteration of eye movement does not depend on oculo-motor dysfunction but is secondary to a defect in the visual processing of linguistic material. Inclusion of assessment of this defect might prove beneficial in determining the presence of dyslexia in young children at a younger age, and an earlier intervention could be initiated.”


Keywords and Search Strings
The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • Eye movements, dyslexia
  • Eye movement analysis to diagnose dyslexia
  • Dyslexia, eye movements, predictor variables
  • Dyslexia, eye movements

Databases and Resources
We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and PsychInfo.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published for last 15 years, from 2003 to present, were include in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, PsychInfo, PsychArticle, and Google Scholar.
  • Methodology: Following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types - randomized control trials,, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, etc., generally in this order (b) target population, samples (representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected, etc.), study duration, etc. (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, etc.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Southeast Region (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast at Florida State University. This memorandum was prepared by REL Southeast under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0011, administered by Florida State University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.