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Optom Vis Sci. 2017 Jan;94(1):51-59. doi: 10.1097/OPX.0000000000000918.

Oculometric Assessment of Sensorimotor Impairment Associated with TBI.

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*PhD †BS NASA Ames Research Center, Mountain View, California (DBL, LRW, LSS); and San Jose State University, San Jose, California (DBL, LRW).



Diffuse tissue damage from impact or blast traumatic brain injury (TBI) degrades information processing throughout the brain, often resulting in impairments in sensorimotor function. We have developed an eye-movement assessment test, consisting of a simple, appropriately randomized, radial tracking task together with a broad set of oculometric measures that can be combined to yield a sensitive overall indicator of sensorimotor functional status. We show here that this multidimensional method can be used to detect and characterize sensorimotor deficits associated with TBI.


To compare dynamic visuomotor processing of TBI subjects (n = 34) with a separate control population (n = 41), we used the Comprehensive Oculometric Behavioral Response Assessment (COBRA) method (Liston & Stone, J Vision. 14:12, 2014) to quantify 10 performance metrics for each subject. Each TBI subject's set of oculometrics was then combined to compute a single TBI impairment vector whose magnitude we refer to as the impairment index.


In our TBI population, several individual oculometrics were significantly degraded, including pursuit latency, initial pursuit acceleration, pursuit gain, catch-up saccade amplitude, proportion smooth tracking, and speed responsiveness. Furthermore, the TBI impairment index discriminated TBI subjects from controls with an 81% probability that increased with self-reported TBI severity; although the 9 subjects self-reporting "little-to-no" residual impairment were statistically indistinguishable from controls (58% probability), the remaining 25 subjects were easily detectable (91% probability). Given the demonstrated link between higher-order visual perception/cognition and eye movements, we interpret the observed TBI-related impairments as degradations in the speed, accuracy, and precision of information processing within cortical circuits supporting higher-order visual processing and sensorimotor control, not just low-level brainstem motor deficits.


We conclude that multidimensional oculometric testing could be used as a sensitive screen for subtle neurological signs of subclinical neurological insults, to quantify functional impairment, to monitor deterioration or recovery, and to evaluate treatment efficacy.

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