Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

DVBIC eye-tracking tech may help service members with concussions

Image of Soldier sitting in front of a laptop with headphones on. Naval Reserve Officer ENS Carlos Monasterio, a member of the DVBIC Naval Medical Center San Diego research team, demonstrates the Fusion eye-tracking system. (DVBIC photo by Mark Ettenhofer)

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Health Innovation Toolkit

An innovative technology, known as the Fusion Brain Assessment System, tracks eye movements in individuals and shows promise as an objective measure to diagnose and manage service members with concussions, and enhance force readiness, according to ongoing studies by researchers from the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC).

Diagnosing a concussion, also known as a mild traumatic brain injury, usually relies on a screening tool, such as the Military Acute Concussion Evaluation (MACE 2), used by the Department of Defense. These types of tools have a strong subjective element based on patient recall of past traumatic events.

By contrast, the Fusion technology is more objective by assessing eye reaction time that is often slower or more erratic for those who have experienced brain trauma. More than 400,000 active-duty service members have been diagnosed with TBI since 2000, according to figures from DVBIC.

“Through this program of research, we've developed and validated novel methods using eye tracking and measuring electrical brain signals to objectively measure effects of TBI on service members' cognitive, sensory and motor abilities,” said Mark Ettenhofer, a neuropsychologist at DVBIC’s Naval Medical Center San Diego research site in California, and one of the technology’s principal developers. DVBIC is the DoD’s traumatic brain injury center of excellence and a division of the Defense Health Agency Research and Development Directorate.

Ettenhofer and his colleagues tested eye movements to determine whether effects of brain injury among study participants would become more pronounced when performing more intellectually demanding tasks. All participants made eye movements as quickly as possible to look at circular images that appeared on a computer screen. As the tasks became more challenging, those with long-term effects from TBIs had greater difficulties than those without them. When combined with other tools, the eye-tracking system could help improve the accuracy of TBI diagnoses.

In the past, research psychologists have measured how quickly the brain processes visual images primarily by having subjects push a button in response. This requires the brain first to see the image, and then send a message to the finger to push the button.

“There is a lot that can happen between visual recognition of a signal [through images] and the pressing of a button,” said Army Major David Barry, a clinical psychologist and the co-inventor of the eye-tracker. He added, “If you are measuring how long it takes a person to look at something versus how long it takes a person to press a button, the eyes are always going to be faster and a more reliable indicator of neural activity.”

The Fusion technology has been used by TBI researchers at other institutions to assess a wide range of brain function. They have studied how TBI and PTSD affect the brain differently, how veterans’ brains changed over time during rehabilitation, and whether various therapies could improve cognition among military personnel and veterans with TBIs.

The DVBIC team in San Diego plans to further test the eye-tracking technology in a virtual reality setting. Participants would complete military-related tasks, such as walking and shooting, while in an immersive 3-D environment. Simultaneously, their eye movements, accuracy, and brain activities would be measured. Subjects with concussions would be compared to others who had not sustained TBIs to develop an objective measure of recovery. Researchers hope to develop tools that military commanders can use in the field to predict whether a service member is ready to return to duty or requires additional rest.

“Our goal is to use this technology to detect TBI-related problems earlier and more accurately, and to be able to track recovery over time to help injured service members return to duty when they're ready,” Ettenhofer said.

You also may be interested in...

A History of the Combat Helmet and the Quest to Prevent Injuries

Article
4/25/2022
Lt. Gen. George S. Patton and Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr. are pictured here in 1943 wearing the standard M1 helmet, sometimes called the "steel pot." (Photo: 1st Infantry Division Courtesy Photo)

The combat helmet has evolved over time to improve protection against projectiles and shock waves to reduce the risk of fatal blows and traumatic brain injuries.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Military Medical History

Concussion Care Pathway Streamlined for Better Results

Article
4/1/2022
Dr. Gregory Johnson, Tripler Concussion Clinic medical director, conducts a neurological exam on Army Spc. Andrew Karamatic, a combat medic, having him follow his finger with his eyes, at Tripler Army Medical Center, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Neurologic exams are part of the MACE 2 diagnostic tool to assess service members’ Acute Concussion Care Pathway. (Photo: Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal, DMA Pacific – Hawaii Media Bureau)

The Defense Health Agency has developed a comprehensive clinical care program (Acute Concussion Care Pathway) to manage concussions based on the military medical community’s many years of experience with injured service members.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury

Brain-Boosting Meal Plans Help Service Members with TBI

Article
3/30/2022
During the NICoE intensive outpatient program (IOP), staff nutritionist Ruth Clark teaches hands-on classes in the on-site patient kitchen. (Photo: Tahira Hayes (Ctr), NICoE/WRNMMC, NSA Bethesda)

Research has shown that dietary changes may help relieve symptoms that might complicate recovery from a traumatic brain injury (TBI), such as chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and sleep problems.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Nutritional Fitness | Total Force Fitness

Immediate Testing: How the Military Evaluates Risk For Brain Injuries

Article
3/28/2022
Pfc. Thomas Icenogle, a student in the Army’s Combat Medic Specialist Training Program at the Medical Education and Training Campus on Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, conducts a Military Acute Concussion Evaluation 2 (MACE 2) on Pvt. Alejandro Leija, while Pvt. Dominic Dubois refers to the MACE 2 card. (Photo: Lisa Braun, Medical Education and Training Campus Public Affairs)

MACE 2 allows for a quick assessment of traumatic brain injuries in the field and is similar to sports concussion checks.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury

Five Clinical Tools To Help Assess and Treat TBI

Article
3/17/2022
An Army 'gun team' brace for the concussion of a 105mm howitzer during operations in Iraq in 2008. (Photo: Master Sgt. Kevin Doheny)

Here are five new ways that doctors can diagnose and treat mild concussions.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury

Ask the Doc: Can a Concussion Affect Hearing and Vision?

Article
3/16/2022
Elizabeth Kirkpatrick, a physical therapist for the Fort Drum Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Clinic, New York, uses a model of the inner ear on Feb. 27, 2019, to demonstrate how a concussion can cause inner ear, or vestibular, damage which may result in dizziness, anxiety, depression, moodiness, balance problems and irritability to name a few. (Photo: Warren W. Wright Jr., Fort Drum MEDDAC)

Even a mild concussion can lead to hearing and vision problems.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention | Hearing Center of Excellence | Vision Center of Excellence | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention | Ask The Doc

Tackling Concussions: NCAA-DOD CARE Consortium Battles Brain Injuries

Article
1/6/2022
Naval Academy football team runs onto the field

Dr. Paul Pasquina and Dr. Terry Rauch recently discussed the NCAA-DOD Concussion Assessment, Research and Education (CARE) Consortium, the largest concussion and repetitive head impact study in history, on the NCAA’s “Social Series.”

Recommended Content:

Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences | Traumatic Brain Injury | Medical Research and Development

USU Co-leads Largest NCAA-DOD Concussion Study in History

Article
10/8/2021
A doctor looks at a patient's prosthetic arm.

The Uniformed Service University will co-lead the next phase of the largest concussion and repetitive head impact study.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury

Back from the Brink: One Marine's Recovery from Suicidal Thoughts

Article
9/29/2021
Portrait photo of John Peck

After suffering a TBI in Iraq and losing all four limbs in Afghanistan, Marine Sgt. John Peck talks about his own experience and the differences in the ways in which individuals deal with traumatic life events.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Suicide Prevention | Suicide Prevention | Talking About Afghanistan

Concussion Linked to Depression, Anxiety and PTSD, Studies Show

Article
9/28/2021
Picture of blast waves during an explosion

A clear link between blast-related concussions and mental health symptoms like depression, anxiety, and PTSD, is shown in a series of recent studies.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury

NICoE, NHRC Team Up To Make CAREN Technology Portable

Article
8/12/2021
A person walks in front of a large virtual reality screen.

Head-mounted display technology has become more affordable and accessible

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | The National Intrepid Center of Excellence

Caregiver Guide supports service members and veterans with TBI

Article
7/22/2021
Military family posing for a picture

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence’s 2021 Caregiver Guide provides specific tools to help caregivers manage TBI patient recovery.

Recommended Content:

Centers of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury | TBI Education and Training Events

How COVID-19 fast-tracked innovation in the Military Health System

Article
7/20/2021
Military personnel receiving the COVID-19 test

As the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted every aspect of healthcare delivery, the Military Health System responded with new and innovative ways to fight the disease and deliver safe, quality care to patients.

Recommended Content:

Health Innovation Toolkit | | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus

Innovation working group strives to enhance METC training

Article
7/20/2021
Military personnel using virtual reality

Virtual/augmented reality, 3D printing, video/podcast production, and machine learning/artificial intelligence technologies and others like them will enhance the training students receive at METC and elsewhere by supplementing the lectures and providing realistic alternatives to actual experiences.

Recommended Content:

Health Innovation – Pathways to Ready Reliable Care | Health Innovations across the MHS Enterprise | Health Innovation Toolkit

CHAMP uses more predictive analytics to improve beneficiary healthcare

Article
7/8/2021
A game of tug-of-war

Military health innovation and Total Force Fitness go hand-in-hand.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Health Innovation Toolkit | Health Innovation – Pathways to Ready Reliable Care | Health Innovations across the MHS Enterprise | MHS Research Symposium
<< < 1 2 3 4 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 4
Refine your search
Last Updated: February 15, 2022

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.