According to a new report published on-line in Journal of Neurosurgery, researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center have developed a new technology capable of identifying the location and impact of a brain injury by tracking eye movements of individuals as they watch music videos or television for less than four minutes.
The findings indicate eye tracking could be used to test for brain injuries and monitoring recovery of individuals with brain injury.
Uzma Samadani, MD, PhD, Chief of Neurosurgery at New York Harbor Health Care System and co-director of the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Veterans Center for the Study of Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury at NYU Langone, and colleagues examined 169 veterans. Of those, 157 were neurologically healthy, and 12 had known weaknesses in the nerves that move the eyes or brain swelling adjacent to those nerves which allow the eyes to move up and down and side to side.
The team used a newly developed technology to measure the ratio of horizontal to vertical eye movements as participants watched either a music video or television for 220 seconds.
The researchers observed that neurologically healthy participants exhibited an eye-movement ratio close to one-to-one. However, the 12 participants with nerve damage or swelling of the brain pressing on nerves all showed abnormal eye-movement ratios correlating to the nerve being affected. The researchers also found that surgery to fix brain swelling influencing the nerves restored eye movements to normal range.
“We are very excited about the findings because it offers a proof of concept that this technology can detect brain injury and suggest its location,” says Dr. Samadani. “One of the reasons that clinical trials for treatment of brain injury have failed in the past is that brain injury is hard to classify and quantitate with existing technologies. This invention suggests a potential new method for classifying and quantitating the extent of injury. Once validated, it will both accelerate diagnosis and aid in the development of better treatments.”