The Measurement of Eye Movements in Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: A Structured Review of an Emerging Area

Samuel Stuart, Lucy Parrington, Douglas N Martini, Robert J Peterka, James C. Chesnutt, Laurie A. King

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Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), or concussion, occurs following a direct or indirect force to the head that causes a change in brain function. Many neurological signs and symptoms of mTBI can be subtle and transient, and some can persist beyond the usual recovery timeframe, such as balance, cognitive or sensory disturbance that may pre-dispose to further injury in the future. There is currently no accepted definition or diagnostic criteria for mTBI and therefore no single assessment has been developed or accepted as being able to identify those with an mTBI. Eye-movement assessment may be useful, as specific eye-movements and their metrics can be attributed to specific brain regions or functions, and eye-movement involves a multitude of brain regions. Recently, research has focused on quantitative eye-movement assessments using eye-tracking technology for diagnosis and monitoring symptoms of an mTBI. However, the approaches taken to objectively measure eye-movements varies with respect to instrumentation, protocols and recognition of factors that may influence results, such as cognitive function or basic visual function. This review aimed to examine previous work that has measured eye-movements within those with mTBI to inform the development of robust or standardized testing protocols. Medline/PubMed, CINAHL, PsychInfo and Scopus databases were searched. Twenty-two articles met inclusion/exclusion criteria and were reviewed, which examined saccades, smooth pursuits, fixations and nystagmus in mTBI compared to controls. Current methodologies for data collection, analysis and interpretation from eye-tracking technology in individuals following an mTBI are discussed. In brief, a wide range of eye-movement instruments and outcome measures were reported, but validity and reliability of devices and metrics were insufficiently reported across studies. Interpretation of outcomes was complicated by poor study reporting of demographics, mTBI-related features (e.g., time since injury), and few studies considered the influence that cognitive or visual functions may have on eye-movements. The reviewed evidence suggests that eye-movements are impaired in mTBI, but future research is required to accurately and robustly establish findings. Standardization and reporting of eye-movement instruments, data collection procedures, processing algorithms and analysis methods are required. Recommendations also include comprehensive reporting of demographics, mTBI-related features, and confounding variables.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5
JournalFrontiers in Sports and Active Living
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jan 2020


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