On 5/10/13 at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Opthamalogy in Seattle, Dr. Peskind described the use of optical coherence tomography (OCT) to detect traumatic brain injury and monitor healing from TBI. OCT uses near-infared light to create images of subsurface biological tissue in slices. Used on the eye it is the equivalent of ultrasound. Dr. Peskind became interested in this when studying the eye health of war veterans exposed to blast injuries who reported symptoms such as memory loss, headache, muddled thinking and irritability. She noticed that all of them had trouble reading and showed erratic eye movements.
Dr. Peskind’s colleague Dr. Kardon says that since the eye arises embryonically from the same tissue as the brain studying the eye could tell us what is happening in the brain. He has used OCT to detect eye damage to soldiers. The same shock wave that causes subtle damage to the brain also causes subtle damage to the eye. Dr. Kardon also found that the eyes of a brain-injured person are ultra-sensitive to a light shined in their eyes. By hooking up small electrodes to the muscles around the eye, Kardon documented higher levels of involuntary blinking and squinting among veterans with traumatic brain injury. Yet another indicator is how fast the pupil contracts in response to a burst of light, he said. In studies of 140 people treated in a hospital emergency room after car accidents and other head trauma, Kardon and his colleagues found that slower pupil contraction was a sign of more serious brain injury. In cases where the existence of a TBI is disputed think about using these kinds of eye tests to gather additional evidence.