Department of Defense Grants

Introduction

TBI is the leading cause of death and disability in young people in the United States. Every year, approximately 1.74 million people suffer mild brain injuries, often resulting in subtle undiagnosed cognitive deficits that can lead to chronic disability. The cost of traumatic brain injuries in the United States is estimated at $56 billion annually, with $16.7 billion associated with mTBI. Cognitive deficits include problems with concentration, attention, memory and higher level executive functions such as planning, organization, and decision making. Most conventional neuropsychological measurements have thus far been unreliable in detecting cognitive deficits or estimating the severity of mTBI. In addition, these measurements depend on lengthy testing sessions, making the assessment of brain injury inefficient for researchers, clinicians, and patients alike. There are also no methods to accurately measure attention continuously. mTBI patients may experience subtle but frequent lapses in attention that are not detected by assessments with low temporal resolution. Therefore, the development of a rapid yet sensitive and reliable test is necessary in order to detect and grade subtle cognitive impairments due to injury and to generate accurate diagnoses for mTBI patients. The Cognitive and Neurobiological Research Consortium investigated chronic mild TBI in civilians and provided anatomical quantification of the degree of diffuse axonal injury (DAI) using MRI-diffusion tensor imaging. Based on this anatomical quantification, we aimed to determine whether performance variability during visual tracking can provide a useful screening measure for mTBI. We also aimed to develop a diagnostic protocol of attention metric for mTBI.

DoD Advanced Technology Award

Undiagnosed and untreated mTBI has become a significant problem for men and women serving in Iraq, and the Department of Defense expressed an early interest and funding in the eye tracking project.  In September 2008 the DoD awarded BTF a four-year grant $4.6 million grant to develop a portable eye tracking device that can be used on service men and women in the field to instantly determine if they have suffered any brain damage as a result of blast injury or another type of head injury.  The researchers at BTF have been working with engineers and researchers at the United States Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine to develop this device that will revolutionize the way mTBI is diagnosed and help insure that service men and women with brain injury get the care that they need and are not sent back into the field where they could potentially be in harm’s way.