A New York University-led study reveals that eye-tracking technology on a computer screen may advance the art of diagnosing concussion.

Neuroscientists and concussion experts from NYU Langone Medical Center and elsewhere, in a study published online in the Journal of Neurotrauma, present a diagnostic tool for concussion that can be utilized in the emergency room or, one day, on the sidelines at sporting events. The study used an eye-tracking device to effectively measure the severity of concussion or brain injury in patients presenting to emergency departments following head trauma.

The researchers developed an algorithm for eye tracking in which the Cartesian coordinates of the right and left pupils are tracked over 200 seconds and compared to each other as a subject watches a short film clip moving inside an aperture on a computer screen. They compared 64 healthy control subjects to 75 patients who had experienced trauma that brought them to the emergency department at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York City, with whom the NYU School of Medicine has an affiliation agreement.

The study showed that 13 trauma patients who had hit their heads and had CT scans showing 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 but did not require head CT scans had similar abilities to coordinate eye movements as normal uninjured controls.

“Concussion is a condition that has been plagued by the lack of an objective diagnostic tool which, in turn, has helped drive confusion and fears among those affected and their families,” said lead investigator Uzma Samadani, M.D., an assistant professor at NYU Langone. “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.”

The study is available here.

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