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Eye-tracking tech may be fast and inexpensive test for brain injury

Last month, we wrote about an incident in which a high school football player in New York died as the result of a traumatic brain injury that coaches and other officials allegedly failed to address. The player was not taken out of the game, and this decision may have cost him his life. His parents have since filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

Concussions and more severe forms of traumatic brain injury are not always easy to diagnose, especially outside of a hospital setting. Thanks to promising new research from NYU's Langone Medical Center, however, that may soon change. An article published in the Journal of Neurosurgery discusses a method for quickly diagnosing the presence and location of traumatic brain injury by measuring a patient's eye movements as he watches a short video.

According to a summary of the study, researchers had participants watch music videos or television content for 220 seconds while a device measured eye movements both horizontally and vertically. In normally functioning brains, the ratio of horizontal and vertical eye movements was almost 1:1. This was not the case in study subjects with a brain injury.

While more research will be needed before this becomes a viable diagnostic tool, the results seem promising. Researchers note that once developed, this eye test tool will likely be fast, inexpensive and effective outside of hospital settings.

Among Americans under the age of 35, traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of death and disability. More than 1.4 million people in the U.S. are afflicted by brain injury each year. Any advancement that facilitates faster and more accurate diagnosis of brain injury should be pursued vigorously.

Source: Forbes, "New Eye Tracking Technology Promising As Biomarker For Brain Injury And Function," Robert Glatter, Dec. 17, 2014

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