By moving our eyes, we can create and re-live our memories. Research from my lab shows that the oculomotor (eye movement system) may be specially designed to interface with our memory systems. The rapid, and reciprocal, interactions between the systems allow us to start creating memories as soon as our eyes land on something visually interesting, and to use our memories to guide where we look next. However, these systems become effectively disconnected with aging, and with neurodegeneration, leaving older adults with impoverished memories, despite increasing exploration of their visual worlds. Our research explores the types of memories that are created and retrieved via eye movements, and the particular aspects of memory that decline with age and neurodegeneration. Our ongoing and future work focuses on the development of eyetracking-based screening tools that would signal the onset of neurodegeneration early in the disease course, and intervention techniques to either support otherwise declining memory function or circumvent damaged brain systems.
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