SARS-CoV-2 infection impairs oculomotor functions: A longitudinal eye-tracking study

Keywords: Eye movement, Eye Tracking, Saccades, Smoot pursuit, cognitive function, SARS-CoV-2 Infection


Although Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 infection (SARS-CoV-2) is primarily recognized as a respiratory disease, mounting evidence suggests that it may lead to neurological and cognitive impairments. The current study used three eye-tracking tasks (free-viewing, fixation, and smooth pursuit) to assess the oculomotor functions of mild infected cases over six months with symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infected volunteers. Fifty symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infected, and 24 self-reported healthy controls completed the eye-tracking tasks in an initial assessment. Then, 45, and 40 symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infected completed the tasks at 2- and 6-months post-infection, respectively. In the initial assessment, symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infected exhibited impairments in diverse eye movement metrics. Over the six months following infection, the infected reported overall improvement in health condition, except for self-perceived mental health. The eye movement patterns in the free-viewing task shifted toward a more focal processing mode and there was no significant improvement in fixation stability among the infected. A linear discriminant analysis shows that eye movement metrics could differentiate the infected from healthy controls with an accuracy of approximately 62%, even 6 months post-infection. These findings suggest that symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection may result in persistent impairments in oculomotor functions, and the employment of eye-tracking technology can offer valuable insights into both the immediate and long-term effects of SARS-CoV-2 infections. Future studies should employ a more balanced research design and leverage advanced machine-learning methods to comprehensively investigate the impact of SARS-CoV-2 infection on oculomotor functions.

How to Cite
Duan, X., Huang, Z., Zhang, S., Zhu, G., Wang, R., & Wang, Z. (2024). SARS-CoV-2 infection impairs oculomotor functions: A longitudinal eye-tracking study. Journal of Eye Movement Research, 17(1).

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