In patients presenting with a head injury it is still often difficult to diagnose a concussion, CT scans being the standard tool used to get to the final answer. Yet, even CT scans do not reveal a concussion every time. Now researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center have presented a new eye tracking technique that may one day become a standard part of performing a brain injury analysis in the emergency room or even on the sidelines of football fields.
Abnormal eye movement has been known as a symptom of brain injury for a very long time, but objectively measuring its severity and correlating it to the extent of brain injury has prevented the technique from reaching its true potential in clinical practice. Specifically, disconjugate eye movement, in which the eyes don’t move in synchrony, is the window into the brain. To measure it, the NYU team used high-accuracy tracking cameras to follow the eyes of people watching a music video. They compared the eye movements of 64 healthy people against 75 trauma patients visiting New York’s Bellevue Hospital’s ER.
What the results showed is that 13 patients whose concussions were confirmed with a CT and 39 whose CT scans were coming up normal displayed disconjugate eye movement. 23 others with injuries to other parts of the body than the head were not directed to receive a CT and showed normal eye movement as in healthy folks. The researchers believe that eye tracking “may help quantify the severity of ocular motility disruption associated with concussion and structural brain injury,” according to the study in Journal of Neurotrauma