Researchers here in the city are looking for a way to determine whether sufferers of both traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder are getting better or worse. Health Reporter Erin Billups filed the following report.
Researchers at NYU Langone's Cohen Veterans Center are tracking the eye movement of returning soldiers, particularly those who may have suffered a blow to the head.
"We have someone watch TV and while they're watching TV, we measure their pupil position. We compare, for example, the pupil position in the right eye and the left eye, but we also compare things like ratios of eye movements," explains Dr. Uzma Samadani, Co-Director of Cohen Veteran Center at NYU Langone Medical Center.
It's part of a five-year study, which began in 2013 of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.
Dr. Samadani says based on how the eye responds to the images on the screen doctors can determine how bad a concussion is.
"We can actually figure out where in the brain the problem is and what the problem is," she adds.
So far, they've tracked around 5,000 people - not all are veterans. Samadani says they've found they can detect whether there's an issue with the nerves that move the eyes and whether there's acute brain swelling. She says they're also able to see the effects of concussions that cannot be detected through conventional imaging. The goal, of course, is to better target treatment.
"What we're finding is many patients recover quickly and completely from a brain injury and other patients don't and the eye tracking can help us figure out which ones are which," says Dr. Samadani.
A test like this won't just be limited to veterans and theoretically it could be used for all types of brain injury.
"The vast majority of people in America who get brain injured are not veterans, they're just normal people going about their everyday lives and something happens," notes Dr. Samadani.
The NYU team will submit its findings to the FDA seeking approval to launch full-fledged clinical trials.