Temporary blazing fast eye movements when thinking

  1. I was sitting beside my friend and I asked myself a question out loud which required scanning a mapped list (numbers-names) to find the answer. She heard and tried to help. I looked at her eyes while trying to find the answer myself and suddenly her eyes moved very quickly from center to right in a jerky manner (and back again). It lasted for about half a second. She regained focus at me and spelled out the answer.

    During those quick movements (from center to right and back again) I realized her eyes were not focused on anything. It was as if she was scanning her own brain with her eyes. I assume they were involuntary movements. I strongly doubt a human can move their eyes' muscles so quickly consciously. The movement loop was simply too fast.

    Are there any biological explanations as to what may have happened? Any neurological explanation, or this may actually be quite the complex process to be addressed with a simple answer?

  2. jcsd
  3. OmCheeto

    OmCheeto 2,236
    Gold Member
    2014 Award

    My sister and I are both capable of this. It's quite conscious, and quite deliberate. Though, it's not like trying to move your eyes back and forth. Probably the closest anatomical parallel I can come up with, is shivering.
    In the case of my sister and I, it's called Voluntary Nystagmus, as it never occurs involuntarily.

    I'm not a doctor, so I have no idea what the rest of that article means.

    If you're friend's Nystagmus was involuntary, then that's a different story.

    ps. The only reason I do it, is to freak people out.
    1 person likes this.
  4. Hahaha! You are mean. ;) I wasn't freaked out, I thought it was actually cool... what happened. But I made no expression whatsoever as I don't know if she was aware and if she was and I asked something it may have made her feel bad. I don't know.

    Are you sure it may be that? Because her eyes look normal. It was just in that instant that it happened. Can Nystagmus then happen for an instant and go away?
  5. OmCheeto

    OmCheeto 2,236
    Gold Member
    2014 Award

    No. As I said, I'm not a doctor.
    My eyes look normal.
    I can do it as briefly as ≈1/5 of a second, based on the NEJM article that says the frequency is 10 hz.
    I can keep the twitching going continuously for maybe 3 seconds at the most. Then I have to rest for a couple of seconds.

    hmmm... This is interesting:

    This is a lot more common than I realized.
    1 person likes this.
  6. Wow, that is fast.

    Thanks for that link...
    I couldn't have described it better. The words high frequency and low amplitude describe it perfectly.
  7. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    I occasionally have involuntary nystagmus, it only lasts a second but it is really not a nice feeling.
  8. OmCheeto

    OmCheeto 2,236
    Gold Member
    2014 Award

    I was going to post a hypotheses, last night, that the condition might be related to the "Rapid Eye Movement" phase of sleep, but I couldn't find a peer reviewed article.

    And on top of that, it was way past my bed time...

    Speaking of which...

    nap time. :zzz:
  9. Ryan_m_b

    Staff: Mentor

    Wow I've been able to do that all my life and never knew there was a term for it! I've only ever met a few people that can also. It is great to freak people out :p
  10. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    Involuntary nystagmus, which I have, the eyes move incredibly fast, that wiki picture of the eyes moving is not representative of involuntary nystagmus. I would say my eyes move back and forth 30 or more times in half a second, very disquieting. The feeling of your eyes being pulled back and forth is horrible.
  11. does it feel as if someone else is looking through your eyes?
  12. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    No. .
  13. My husband does this when he's excited about something or thinking fast (like when he's telling lies). It's not a tremor like nystagmus and he has 20/20 vision. It's a bigger movement than nystagmus but extremely rapid. I can only do it for a few seconds without feeling sick when I try to show him and I can't do it anywhere near as fast.
  14. My husband does this when he's excited or thinking fast (like when he is lying). It's quite unnerving to watch. It isn't like nystagmus and he has 20/20 vision. The movement is more pronounced not like a tremor. It is so fast. I couldn't do it. I can do it more slowly but it makes me feel sick after a few seconds. I asked him about it once and he seemed to be unaware of it.
  15. I saw a girl my age do it (deliberately) when I was about 14 and I was definitely weirded out (which was her goal in showing it to people), but then a few years later I saw someone else do it and I figured I could do it if I tried. I finally figured out how to do it, but that was decades ago and I find that I've forgotten how.
  16. As an interesting sidenote, have you ever wondered why many flying insects sort of oscillate back and forth before your eyes? Well, this is their counterpart to the saccades humans use to recognize stimuli. We twitch our eyes left to right to create the motion necessary for our retinas to give our brains information about our environs, and insects must fly back and forth to get the same job done.

    That is, because they don't have the ocular muscles to move their eyes as we do.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thead via email, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?

Draft saved Draft deleted