MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Uzma Samadani, M.D., Ph.D.
Departments of Neuroscience and Physiology
NYU Langone Medical Center
Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Dr. Samadani: Research dating back as early as 3,500 years ago suggests the eyes serve as a window into the brain, with disconjugate eye movements — eyes rotating in different directions — considered a principal marker for head trauma. Current estimates suggest up to 90 percent of patients with concussions or blast injuries exhibit dysfunction in their eye movements.
We wanted to find a way to objectively track and analyze eye movements following a head injury to measure injury severity and replace the current “state of the art” method of asking a patient to follow along with a finger. CT-scans and MRIs may not necessarily reveal concussion or traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the absence of structural damage, presenting a need for a diagnostic measure of head injury severity.
In a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Neurosurgery, my team at the NYU Cohen Veterans Center tested our novel eye-tracking technology on military veterans, and found our device and tracking algorithm could reveal edema in the brain as a potential biomarker for assessing brain function and monitoring recovery in people with head injuries.
Our latest paper, published January 29 in Journal of Neurotrauma, looked at a civilian population of patients admitted to the Bellevue Medical Center emergency department in New York City, with whom the NYU School of Medicine has an affiliation agreement. We compared 64 healthy control subjects to 75 patients who had experienced trauma that brought them to emergency department. We tracked and compared the movements of patients’ pupils for over 200 seconds while watching a music video.
We found 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.
Among patients who had hit their heads and had normal CT scans, most were slightly worse at 1-2 weeks after the injury, and subsequently recovered about one month after the injury. Among all trauma patients, the severity of concussive symptoms correlated with severity of disconjugacy.