Smartphone app may diagnose brain injuries based on just your eyes

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Source: Dennis Wise/University of Washington

A team of researchers, computer scientists, and engineers say they have created a powerful tool to quickly identify concussions soon after they happen, and you likely have the technology in your pocket already.

The team says they have developed an app called PupilScreen capable of using the average smartphone camera to track imperceptible changes in the human eye that occur after a brain injury.

“The brain is going through this incredible time of growth between the years of 10 and 12, and if you subject that developing brain to repetitive head impacts, it may cause problems later in life,” Robert Stern, one of the authors of the study, said of the findings.

According to a paper presented earlier this month at Ubicomp 2017, PupilScreen can evaluate a person’s pupillary light reflex nearly as accurately as a pupilometer – an expensive machine that is only used in hospitals.

Source: Dennis Wise/University of Washington

Pupillary light reflex has long been used to assess people with traumatic brain injuries, especially in more severe cases. However, the inability to easily monitor this with affordable and portable technology has prevented it from being used more regularly in the field.

The app works by using the smartphone’s flash to stimulate the patient’s eyes while recording a three-second video of the eyes. The video is then processed by deep learning algorithms that measure minute changes in the pupil.

In a small pilot study of the app, medical professionals were able to diagnose concussions in 48 patients with near-perfect accuracy, without access to any other information from the patients. However, more research will have to be done to verify the app’s effectiveness before it could be released to the general public for use.

You can find out more about the app from Futurity.org.

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