Minnesota Spinal Cord & Traumatic Brain Injury Research Symposium kicks off during Super Bowl week

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More than 10,500 Minnesotans are living with paralysis from a spinal cord injury and 100,000 are living with disabilities from brain injury. No matter what the cause – whether it’s from a slip on the ice, a ladder fall or a car crash – these injuries are life-changing for patients and their families.

On Wednesday, January 31, 2018 from 1:00-5:00pm the first annual Minnesota Spinal Cord & Traumatic Brain Injury Research Symposium will showcase new and innovative research funded by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education Grant Program. The Grant Program funds research to discover treatment and rehabilitation with the aim of improving function in people with spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries. The Symposium takes place at the new HealthPartners Neuroscience Center, 295 Phalen Blvd. in St. Paul.

“Without a doubt, the path to hope for these courageous patients is research,” explains neurosurgeon Uzma Samadani, M.D., Ph.D., Rockswold Kaplan Endowed Chair for TBI Research at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), one of the moderators at the Symposium. “As a researcher, surgeon and clinician, it’s truly an honor to uncover interventions that will make an impact on the way we diagnose and treat these types of injuries.”

The Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance and Get Up Stand Up to Cure Paralysis worked with Minnesota legislators in July of 2015 to pass funding legislation for this program. Funding is split 50/50 between research focused on spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries. To date 21 research projects have been funded and will be showcased at the symposium along with select patient testimonials. In the next two years the Grant Program will award a total of $6 million for research.

Senator John Hoffman and Representative Tony Albright, who supported the legislation, will open the symposium followed by researchers from the Mayo Clinic, Hennepin County Medical Center, University of Minnesota and the Minneapolis VA Health Care System. In addition, speakers from Prevent Biometrics and TackleBar football will address current issues surrounding concussions.

Collaborative Minnesota partnerships like the ones featured at the Minnesota Spinal Cord & Traumatic Brain Injury Research Symposium are leading the way toward critical medical discoveries. For more information go to www.mnscitbiresearch.com/

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NFL Alumni Teams Up With Hennepin County Medical Center to Make Memories & Support Brain Injury Research

SuperBrain2018 logo for wrapper2Pro-brain, pro-game event during Super Bowl LII week announced

On Thursday, October 12, 2017 Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) welcomes Ben Utecht and Lee Nystrom, former NFL players, to announce Super Brain 2018 – a fundraising event to support the Brain Injury Research Laboratory at HCMC.

Who:     Hennepin County Medical Center, NFL Alumni

What:    Super Brain 2018 event announcement

When:   Thursday, October 12, 2017 at 2pm

Where: Simulation Center, Hennepin County Medical Center, 615 South Sixth St., Mpls, MN 55415.

Continue reading “NFL Alumni Teams Up With Hennepin County Medical Center to Make Memories & Support Brain Injury Research”

Abbott, Hennepin County Medical Center and University of Minnesota Collaborate to Launch the Nation’s Largest, Single-Center Prospective Study on Concussion and Traumatic Brain Injury

Researchers aim to develop a standard approach for evaluating and diagnosing traumatic brain injury, including concussion

  • Study will include various evaluation methods, including analysis of blood-based biomarkers, eye tracking and imaging to help classify severity of head injury

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year, there are an estimated 2.2 million emergency department visits for traumatic brain injuries (TBI).[i] For people with head injuries, quick evaluation and treatment are critical.

That’s why researchers at Hennepin County Medical Center (Minneapolis, Minn.) and the University of Minnesota are launching an innovative, comprehensive study in collaboration with Abbott to better identify the range of brain injuries among patients. Using multiple evaluation tools, including eye tracking, blood-based biomarkers, imaging and cognitive measures, scientists hope to develop a new standard approach to help classify brain injuries, including concussions, and provide the information needed to guide doctors’ treatment decisions.

“We know that there are different types of brain damage that can occur after trauma, whether it’s a mild concussion or a severe injury,” said neurosurgeon Uzma Samadani, M.D., Ph.D., Rockswold Kaplan Endowed Chair for TBI Research at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), associate professor at the University of Minnesota and one of the lead investigators of the study. “Our goal with this study is to combine multiple assessment techniques to quickly assess the severity of brain injuries and enable clinicians to provide appropriate treatments.” Continue reading “Abbott, Hennepin County Medical Center and University of Minnesota Collaborate to Launch the Nation’s Largest, Single-Center Prospective Study on Concussion and Traumatic Brain Injury”

Eye Tracking Has High Sensitivity as a Biomarker for Concussion

Dr. Uzma Samadani
Dr. Uzma Samadani

Eye Tracking Detects Concussion with Sensitivity Comparable to that of Blood Tests for Heart Attack

New technology that tracks the eye movements of patients may be a more accurate measure of brain injury than any other diagnostic measurements currently in use, according to a study published in the journal Concussion. Dr. Uzma Samadani, who recently joined Hennepin County Medical Center, in collaboration with researchers at the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Veterans Center at NYU Langone Medical Center, developed the technology that can serve as a biomarker for concussion by tracking patients’ eye movements as they watch music videos.  

Eye tracker device demonstrated by subject
Subject participating in eye tracking study

The eye tracking technology works by having patients watch a music video for 220 seconds while eye movements are measured using a tracking camera.  Videos used in the study ranged from Disney’s Puss in Boots to Wavin Flag by K’Naan.  Multiple measures of each eye’s movement, followed by comparisons of their positions over time are used to distinguish between normal subjects and those with concussion.

In the work, led by Uzma Samadani, MD PhD, Charles Marmar, MD, and Eugene Laska PhD, the investigators built a classifier based on 34 emergency room patients with brain injury and 34 uninjured healthy control subjects of similar age. A classifier is a mathematical model that converts a patient’s eye movement measures into a prediction of the concussive status of the individual. They then tested the models on a dataset of 255 subjects, of whom 8 had concussions, and found that the eye tracking test had an optimal sensitivity of 88% and specificity of 87%.

Typically, a classifier produces a score and a subject is classified as having a concussion if the score exceeds a predefined threshold value. The accuracy of a biomarker is measured by plotting the probability of a true versus false positivity at each possible threshold value and the Area Under the Curve (AUC) is computed. A perfect biomarker has an AUC of 1.00, while a worthless marker – no better than the chance toss of a coin – has an AUC of 0.50.  Most tests used clinically have AUC’s greater than 0.80.  For example, serum troponin, the most commonly performed blood test for heart attacks has an AUC ranging in various studies from 0.76 to 0.96.  In this study, the eye tracking based classifier had an AUC of 0.88, and a cross-validated AUC of 0.85.

According to Dr. Samadani, the major challenge for any technology proposed as a biomarker for concussion is first defining concussion.  “When doctors look for a biomarker for heart attack, it is relatively easy to check the accuracy of a potential candidate because they can perform a cardiac catheterization and confirm that the heart vessel is blocked and an attack has occurred.  There is no analogous capability with brain injury – there is no gold standard diagnostic, no blood test, and no imaging study for definitively concluding that a patient has experienced a concussion.  We use symptom severity scales and standardized cognitive examination assessments but the imperfect nature of these may result in incorrect subject classification. Potentially, eye tracking may be more accurate than it appears, because of its objective appraisal of a complicated process of coordination that may be impaired.”

The investigators defined concussion as (1) trauma to the head with a normal CT (computed tomography) scan of the brain, (2) symptom severity score of 40 or greater on SCAT3 testing and (3) standardized assessment of concussion (SAC) score less than 24.  The symptom severity score measures the self-reported severity of 22 concussion symptoms ranging from headache to dizziness and irritability.  The SAC measures orientation, memory, and concentration – capabilities which have some variability even among uninjured healthy control subjects.

In an accompanying editorial that also appears in the journal, Dr. Samadani proposes that eye tracking will help diagnose and classify brain injury and concussion, particularly in patients with elevated pressure inside their skulls and disruption of pathways in the brain that control eye movements.

“The ultimate goal for brain injury” said Dr. Samadani, “is to achieve the same level of diagnostic capability and care as currently exists for other medical conditions.  Right now when someone comes in to the emergency room with chest pain, doctors perform an EKG, blood test, imaging, and treatment.  With brain injury we need to be able to achieve the same level of care – to assess all aspects of the problem rigorously, classify, and treat accordingly.  We already know that there is much more to brain injury than what is seen on a CT scan.  Eye tracking tells us how well the brain is working regardless of how it looks, and represents the beginning of a solution to this problem.  It is non-invasive, inexpensive and extremely quick.  Testing does not require reading nor language skills which makes it useful for multiple patient populations.”

Commenting further on the study was Dr. David Cifu, the Herman J. Flax, M.D. Professor and Chair of Rehabilitation at Virginia Commonwealth University, Senior TBI Specialist with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Principal Investigator of the VA/Department of Defense Chronic Effects of NeuroTrauma Consortium.

“This innovative research by Samadani and colleagues highlights a novel approach to objectively and rapidly support the diagnosis of acute concussion using a novel technique of assessing eye tracking. This publication may represent the first step in the development of a more exacting method of diagnosing and monitoring recovery from traumatic brain injury. Computerized assessment of eye tracking may represent the first truly useful biomarker of TBI.”

Brain injury is the number one cause of death and disability in Americans under age 35, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Every year, 1.4 million people suffer from a traumatic brain injury in the United States. Of those, 50,000 die and 235,000 require hospital admission.  Internationally it is a leading cause of death in India and China where access to radiographic diagnostics is also limited.

Dr. Samadani is the Rockswold Kaplan endowed chair for traumatic brain injury at Hennepin County Medical Center and an Associate Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Minnesota.  Dr. Marmar is the Lucius N. Littauer Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center and Director of its Cohen Veterans Center. Dr. Laska is a statistician at the Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research and a Research Professor of Psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine.  Other co-authors of this study include Meng Li MA, Meng Qian PhD, Robert Ritlop M Eng, Radek Kolecki MS, Marleen Reyes BA, Lindsey Altomare BA, Je Yeong Sone, Aylin Adem, Paul Huang MD, Douglas Kondziolka MD, Stephen Wall MD, and Spiros Frangos MD. Technology described in this paper has been licensed to Oculogica Inc., a neurodiagnostic startup company in which NYU, Dr. Samadani and Robert Ritlop have an equity interest.

The work was supported in part by the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Veterans Center for the Study of Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury at NYU Langone.

Internationally recognized neurosurgeon Dr. Uzma Samadani joins HCMC

SAMADANI_UZMA_photoDr. Uzma Samadani, whose research on concussion recently made headlines around the world, is joining the Department of Neurosurgery at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), a nationally recognized Level I Adult and Pediatric Trauma Center that specializes in the treatment of traumatic brain injuries. She will serve as the Rockswold Kaplan Chair for Traumatic Brain Injury Research, and also be appointed an Associate Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Minnesota. Continue reading “Internationally recognized neurosurgeon Dr. Uzma Samadani joins HCMC”

Former Olympic hopeful Kevin Pearce to visit TBI patients

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On Thursday, April 9, 2015 snowboarder Kevin Pearce, who suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in 2009 while training for the Olympics, will stop by Hennepin County Medical Center’s Traumatic Brain Injury Center to visit with and encourage TBI patients. HCMC’s TBI Center was chosen as a visit site for Pearce because of its reputation for exceptional care of TBI patients and its leadership in the industry.

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Kevin Pearce

“The care and encouragement I received during my recovery was so important, and now I want to support and encourage others living with a traumatic brain injury,” explains Pearce.

On December 31, 2009, Pearce was attempting a Cab double cork in a halfpipe in Park City, Utah when he sustained a TBI. An HBO documentary about his experience “The Crash Reel – the Ride of a Lifetime” won an Emmy for Outstanding Information Program. Today, Pearce is an internationally renowned sports commentator, motivational speaker, and advocate for TBI education, prevention, rehabilitation and research, as well as a Sports Ambassador for the National Down Syndrome Society.

About Traumatic Brain Injuries Each year, more than 1.5 million Americans sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Among children and young adults, TBI is the leading cause of death and disability.

In Minnesota, nearly 100,000 brain injuries occur annually. A large percentage of those injuries are mild to moderate cases and often go untreated. As a Level I Trauma Center, Hennepin County Medical Center admits and treats the most traumatic brain injuries in the state.

The Traumatic Brain Injury Center at Hennepin County Medical Center offers comprehensive, multidisciplinary patient care, education and research to serve people who have sustained a traumatic brain injury. Providing a full range of state-of-the-art medical and rehabilitative services, the TBI Center features caregivers whose expertise spans the entire continuum of care for adult and pediatric TBI patients — from prevention to emergency care, neurosurgery, critical care, rehabilitation and the Mild to Moderate Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic. Each year, professionals at the Traumatic Brain Injury Center care for more than 2,000 patients.

Not protecting your noggin? Get your head in gear!

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Before you hit the slopes this winter, the Traumatic Brain Injury Center at HCMC reminds skiers and snowboarders to “Get Your Head in Gear!”  Getting in gear means putting helmets on those heads to reduce the risk for brain injury.  Starting this Saturday and continuing throughout the winter, HCMC will be at various Twin Cities ski slopes providing information to skiers and snowboarders about the importance of wearing a helmet.  You can find details about these special events, and information about the best winter head protection, at savethisbrain.org. Continue reading “Not protecting your noggin? Get your head in gear!”