An objective diagnostic tool for concussion designed for use in the emergency department or, in the future, at sporting events, was highlighted by a recent study published online in the Journal of Neurotrauma. The study, which featured neuroscientists and concussion experts from NYU Langone Medical Center and elsewhere, used a novel eye-tracking device engineered to measure the severity of concussion or brain injury in patients presenting to emergency departments post-head trauma.

Uzma Samadani, MD, PhD, lead investigator, assistant professor in the departments of Neurosurgery, Psychiatry, Neuroscience, and Physiology at NYU Langone, explains in an NYU Langone Medical Center news release, “Our new eye-tracking methodology may be the missing piece to help better diagnose concussion severity, enable testing of diagnostics and therapeutics, and help assess recovery, such as when a patient can safely return to work following a head injury.”

In the new study, the release reports that the researchers compared 64 healthy control subjects to 75 patients who had experienced trauma that brought them to the emergency department at Bellevue Hospital Center, New York City, with whom the NYU School of Medicine has an affiliation agreement. The researchers tracked and compared the movement of patients’ pupils for more than 200 seconds while watching a music video. All participants were between the ages of 18 to 60 years old.

The results indicated that 13 trauma patients who had hit their heads and had CT scans exhibiting new brain damage, as well as 39 trauma patients who had hit their heads and had normal CT scans, had significantly less ability to coordinate their eye movements than normal, uninjured control subjects. Twenty-three trauma subjects who had bodily or extremity injuries did not require head CT scans had similar abilities to coordinate eye movements as normal uninjured controls.

According to the release, among patients who had hit their heads and had normal CT scans, most were slightly worse at 1 to 2 weeks postinjury, and subsequently recovered about 1 month after the injury. Among all trauma patients, the severity of concussive symptoms correlated with severity of disconjugacy.

The new study of non-military, civilian trauma patients visiting the emergency department builds on recent research conducted by Samadani that suggested that the use of this novel eye-tracking technology could reveal edema in the brain as a potential biomarker for assessing brain function and monitoring recovery in individuals with head injuries. The study looked exclusively at military veterans.

The release notes that Samadani’s future work seeks to replicate eye-tracking’s diagnostic potential for head injuries on a larger scale in Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with post-concussive syndrome and post-blast military brain injury.

“Two patients who suffer a head injury and present with virtually identical CT-scans might have completely different symptoms. That’s where eye-tracking can help objectively reveal when one patient may be much more affected by a concussion than another,” Samadani states in the release.

An author disclosure statement in the release adds that Samadani has submitted patents describing the technology utilized in this paper. These patents are owned by NYU and the VA and licensed to Oculogica Inc, a company co-founded by Dr Samadani and co-investigator Robert Ritlop.

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[Source: NYU Langone Medical Center]