A saccade (/səˈkɑːd/ sə-KAHD) is a quick, simultaneous movement of both eyes between two or more phases of fixation in the same direction.
Saccades in the Real World
Scenario 1: You take a break from the 17 minutes of work you’ve just put in at the home “office”. You reach for the controller and start up a game of Call of Duty. Enemy combatants soon emerge from all four corners of your visual field and your eyes are jumping from target to target. First-person shooter games are your means of “decompressing” and your dilated pupils and dry mouth are indicators that your brain is ready for battle.
Scenario 2: You are out for dinner with a group of friends celebrating a birthday. You have Johnny sitting in front of you to the left and Julie sitting in front of you to the right. They get into a heated conversation and you jump back and forth trying to follow along while they continuously banter. In order to not make it look like you are taking one side or the other, your eyes are constantly jumping back and forth between Johnny and Julie.
These are real world examples of Saccades.
Eye movements are often considered as a "window to brain function." Much can be discovered about the brain through the eyes with saccades being a main player.
The purpose of saccades is to generate eye movements that shift your line of sight from one object to another.
In an ideal scenario when a visual target presents itself, you initiate a pulse/burst of neuronal activity which shifts your eyes to the new target, immediately followed by a step phase which keeps your eyes on that target.
This burst will provide an increase in neurological activity which can lead to more energy for most people. The increase in activity within many neurological networks is a wonderfully simple biological way to maintain and in some cases, restore brain function and health.
Saccades increase blood flow via the activation of neurological networks in numerous brain areas with specific focus on frontal and middle brain regions.
They are a great way to increase neurological activity and improve overall brain health.
When Should I Do Saccades?
We have used saccades in performance programming as a quick midday "pick me up" as well as an awesome primer before any type of training or sport activity.
How Often and Long Should I Do Saccades?
To see optimal benefits, we recommend doing saccades at least once a day for at least 2-4 weeks. Start off slow and try it a few times per week and gradually increase from there.
If you need the extra boost you can do saccades a few times per day.
In an ideal world, saccades become a part of your regular routine and something you practice for time to come.
Saccades in Clinic
One can always tell the widening of a person's pupils as they enter the clinic for the first time. The unsure surroundings activate an already sensitive sympathetic nervous system searching for more information.
In clinic, saccade errors often occur where people either come up short of a target, overshoot the target, or hit the target yet slip off immediately after (glissade). While this is unfortunate, the information is potentially extremely valuable in pointing the clinician towards a diagnosis.
Source: Frontiers in Neuro Aging - Cerebral Blood Flow and Cognitive Functioning in a Community-Based, Multi-Ethnic Cohort: The SABRE Study