ADHD and ASD: What the Eyes Could Reveal

The eyes may be able to signal neurodevelopmental disorders such as ASD and ADHD according to new research from Flinders University and the University of South Australia.

Using the ‘electroretinogram’ (ERG) (a diagnostic test that measures the electrical activity of the retina in response to a light stimulus)  researchers found that children with ADHD showed higher overall ERG energy, whereas children with ASD showed less ERG energy.

Research optometrist at Flinders University, Dr Paul Constable, says the preliminary findings indicate promising results for improved diagnoses and treatments in the future.

“ASD and ADHD are the most common neurodevelopmental disorders diagnosed in childhood. But as they often share similar traits, making diagnoses for both conditions can be lengthy and complicated,” Dr Constable says.

“Our research aims to improve this. By exploring how signals in the retina react to light stimuli, we hope to develop more accurate and earlier diagnoses for different neurodevelopmental conditions.

“Retinal signals have specific nerves that generate them, so if we can identify these differences and localize them to specific pathways that use different chemical signals that are also used in the brain, then we can show distinct differences for children with ADHD and ASD and potentially other neurodevelopmental conditions.”

“This study delivers preliminary evidence for neurophysiological changes that not only differentiate both ADHD and ASD from typically developing children, but also evidence that they can be distinguished from each other based on ERG characteristics.”

“While further research is needed to establish abnormalities in retinal signals that are specific to these and other neurodevelopmental disorders, what we’ve observed so far shows that we are on the precipice of something amazing.

“It is truly a case of watching this space; as it happens, the eyes could reveal all.”  Dr Constable says.


Paul A. Constable, Fernando Marmolejo-Ramos, Mercedes Gauthier, Irene O. Lee, David H. Skuse, Dorothy A. Thompson. Discrete Wavelet Transform Analysis of the Electroretinogram in Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 2022; 16 DOI: 10.3389/fnins.2022.890461

University of South Australia. “ADHD and ASD: What the eyes could reveal.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 June 2022. <>.

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