Research Nuggets

Research Nugget: Visual Skills and Reading

ReadingIn a 2007 research study published in the Journal of the American Optometric Association, visual skills and visual acuity were measured for 461 California high school students (average age 15.4) who were identified as having poor reading skills. Among the students, 80% were found to be weak or inadequate in one or more of the following visual abilities:

            • accessing  singleness of vision ranges at near point (binocular fusion)
            • coordinating turning of the eyes inward to focus on an object (convergence at near point)
            • focusing on stimuli at various distances and in different sequences in a given time period (accommodation)

In contrast, only 17% had deficient visual acuity—20/40 or worse in one eye—the standard model of deficiency for school vision screenings.1

1David Grisham, OD, MS, Maureen Powers, PhD, Phillip Riles, MA. Visual skills of poor readers in high school. Optometry – Journal of the American Optometric Association: Volume 78, Issue 10 , Pages 542-549, October 2007. © 2007 American Optometric Association. Published by Elsevier Inc.

Research Nugget: Saccadic Tracking Skills

reading_boyIn a 2008 study, researchers Powers, Grisham, and Riles used the Developmental Eye Movement Test to measure the saccadic tracking skills of 684 ninth-grade students identified as having poor reading abilities.

Horizontal (saccadic) times were typical of grade 3 students; the average number of errors on the horizontal test was typical of grade 2 students. Both genders performed similarly. Retests showed slightly improved horizontal times and fewer errors, yet the grade-level equivalents remained dramatically low. Fewer than 10% of the students scored above the 50th percentile for eighth grade, suggesting that poor readers in high school might be at high risk for poor saccadic tracking.



1. Maureen Powers, PhD, David Grisham, OD, Phillip Riles, MA. Saccadic tracking skills of poor readers in high school. Optometry – Journal of the American Optometric Association

Volume 79, Issue 5 , Pages 228-234, May 2008 American Optometric Association. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Research Nugget: The Energy Yawn

~ The Energy Yawn ~


Neuroscientist and therapist Mark Waldman, co-author with Andrew Newberg, MD, of How God Changes Your Brain, says that, in culling research on the brain, he found that yawning is one of the top five things we can do to exercise the brain. In fact, yawning about 10 times has been seen to be as effective as doing 10 to 15 minutes of relaxation exercises.

According to the research cited in the book, yawning increases blood flow and oxygen in key areas of the brain. Yawning has been shown to calm an overly active frontal lobe, release busy thoughts, heighten consciousness and relaxation, generate the sensorimotor rhythm or “coherent state” that happens when the mind is both relaxed and alert at the same time, and build intimacy with those around us.

Further, the act of yawning is said to stimulate alertness and concentration; optimize brain activity and metabolism; improve cognitive function; increase memory recall; enhance consciousness, introspection, and athletic skills; lower stress; improve voluntary muscle control; fine-tune one’s sense of time; increase empathy and social awareness; enhance pleasure and sensuality; and relax every part of the body. Who knew?!

So get your yawn on with The Energy Yawn, an activity that we’ve been doing with our students in Edu-K for more than 30 years! Make a yawning sound and begin to open wide (pretend to yawn a few times) as you gently massage or stroke away any tight facial areas near your jaw, just below your cheeks by your back molars. Continue until you induce a few real yawns and tears come to your eyes. Make some long, deep exhalation sounds.

For a lovely story and illustrations of animals doing the Brain Gym activities, check out Into Great Forest: A Brain Gym® Journey, by Shelley Petch.

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