Study finds value in eye-tracking technology to identify concussions

New technology recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration can help doctors better detect and diagnose concussions.

The technology comes from RightEye, a vendor of eye-tracking software that measures deficits in certain eye movements that result from a concussion.

Tracking also can help physicians’ measure different severities of concussion, including traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). RightEye gathers eye movement data by surveying the eye several times per second and recording the eye’s movement, uncovering small eye movement deficits often missed using traditional screening processes.

While concussions are a global health concern, current detection methods are manual and subjective, says Melissa Hunfalvay, MD, co-founder and chief science officer at RightEye, and a co-author of the study, which appeared in Concussion, a scientific journal.

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Melissa Hunfalvay, MD

“Not all concussions are the same, yet patients usually lack a clear understanding of the severity of a concussion as well as the road to recovery,” she explains. “This study indicates that digital eye tracking tests are capable of providing doctors with the data they need to quickly uncover abnormal eye movement behavior that can be associated with concussions of varying severity.”

Beyond helping physicians detect and diagnose concussions, eye tracking can help determine appropriate treatment programs and when it is safe for a patient to return to normal activities.

Concussions remain one of the most difficult neurological issues to detect and accurately diagnose, says Mark Baron, MD, a neurologist at Virginia Commonwealth University and deputy director at the Southeast Veterans Affairs Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders Center in Richmond, Va.

“Having a tool that allows doctors to quickly and objectively analyze the neurological health of people could help uncover countless hidden concussions and empower doctors to create tailored treatment plans in line with the severity of the injury,” Baron contends.

The study, which included 195 patients from eye clinics across the nation, is the first to systematically examine use of eye-tracking technology to research differences in horizontal and vertical saccades between people with no history of TBI and patients with a clinical diagnosis of TBI.

The complete study is available here.

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