Dr. Nicolas Brunet
Development of a novel oculomotor approach for rapid concussion detection
Concussion or mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI) is typically caused by a head injury and affects millions of Americans each year. Symptoms such as headaches, memory and attention problems can last weeks, and can occasionally be permanent. In addition, recovery imposes a high economic and societal burden. The non-specific nature of the clinical phenomena associated with mTBI and the heterogeneity of the injury complicates the search for a method to identify mTBI. Underreporting of mTBI, and the lack of objective tests, further underscore the need for biomarkers that can provide a reliable diagnosis. Eye trackers have been used to show that brain injury might affect oculomotor behavior, suggesting that eye movements might reveal mTBI. Results showing the potential to use the movements made by the eye as a biomarker to predict brain injury have yielded promising results, albeit not sufficiently strong to proof its clinical utility. The objective of this application is to advance the technique of using eye trackers as an assessment tool for concussion diagnosis by introducing the following innovations: first, by characterizing not only the regular saccades, but also the tiny and elusive eye movements, known as micro saccade, that are made when the eye is at rest; second, by making use of a multifaceted oculomotor task that is optimized to deal with the nonspecific nature of brain injury.; third, by designing a novel metrics that takes into account the complexity and heterogeneity of the possible changes in oculomotor behavior caused by injury. We hypothesize that the proposed innovations will significantly improve the resolution of using eye tracking as a diagnostic tool in detecting mTBI.