A diagnostic process used in routine eye exams could hold a key to early stage detection and long-term monitoring of subclinical and clinical traumatic brain injury.
The Leonard Wood Institute awarded a $383,837 grant to the UMKC School of Medicine to explore the use of microperimetry to detect changes in visual function that are the result of traumatic brain injury. The project’s principal investigator is Peter Koulen, Ph.D., director of basic research at the UMKC School of Medicine’s Vision Research Center in the Department of Ophthalmology.
Microperimetry measures the light sensitivity of the central retina. It is currently used in ophthalmology to identify damage to the retina and vision loss due to eye diseases.
“We’re not looking for treatments for traumatic brain injury. We’re looking for a quantitative method to detect the disease that tells the patient, your disease severity is a 9 out of 10 or a 2 out of 10,” Koulen said. “Being able to quantify the disease will help physicians to better evaluate their patients. And then, when there is a treatment, it will help evaluate the treatment as well.”
Interventions to prevent or stop traumatic brain injuries are most effective early in the disease, but are not possible without reliable and easily repeatable early stage identification and diagnosis.
Current tests to conclusively show subclinical, or non-recognizable, forms of traumatic brain injury and the degree of acute and long-term damage are typically costly and often imprecise without accurate baseline data.
Using the microperimetry technology, Koulen’s research will sample mild to moderately concussed patients, subclinical traumatic brain injury and non-concussed patients to achieve a baseline. That data will then be used to create a defined number of quantitative parameters and produce a specific fingerprint of functional changes in vision that allow the researcher to optimally perform early stage detection, grading and long-term monitoring of subclinical and clinical traumatic brain injury.
Koulen said the UMKC School of Medicine’s Department of Ophthalmology and its Vision Research Center are uniquely positioned to conduct research on the new diagnostic technique because their faculty includes nationally recognized experts in the retina and neuro-ophthalmology sub-specialties.
If successful, the technology will ultimately enable diagnosis without invasive or subjective measures and will likely also enable an assessment of the severity and long-term impairment resulting from traumatic brain injury.
“Our technology will address this urgent clinical need,” Koulen said.