Eye tracking detects high pressure inside the skull

Contact: Christine Hill 612.873.5719

Doctors Can Detect Pressure Increases Inside the Skull By Tracking Eye Movements During Watching of Music Videos

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Dr. Uzma Samadani

Eye movement tracking while watching a music video for 220 seconds can reveal whether there is increased pressure inside the skull.  The technology works by measuring the function of the nerves that rotate the eyeball.  “Doctors have known for more than 3000 years that high pressure inside the skull impairs the function of these delicate nerves, and that the first to be affected is usually the nerve that rotates the eye laterally” said neurosurgeon Dr. Uzma Samadani, the lead study investigator.

Participants in the National Space and Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) funded study were 23 patients in the neurosurgical intensive care unit who were awake but had brain problems such as bleeding, trauma, stroke or tumors requiring intracranial pressure monitoring with a drainage catheter.  On 55 occasions the patients watched music videos and Disney film clips while an eye tracking camera measured vertical and horizontal eye movements for 220 seconds.   There was a correlation between increased intracranial pressure and decreased function

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During a recent visit NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, MD (who received his medical training at HCMC), was given a demonstration of the eye-tracking technology.

 of the nerves moving the eye as detected with eye tracking.  Decreased lateral eye movements showed the strongest correlation with elevated intracranial pressure, consistent with what has long been known about nerve function.  Individual patients had normal tracking at lower pressures and decreased eye movement at higher pressures regardless of whether the high or low pressure occurred first.

Dr. Samadani, who is the Rockswold Kaplan Endowed Chair for Brain Injury Research at Hennepin County Medical Center as well as an Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School, noted that concussion and elevated intracranial pressure impact many of the same eye tracking metrics, suggesting that similar pathways may be impaired.

Study results were presented at a joint NASA/NSBRI research group meeting and are now published in the Journal of Neurosurgery.  The company Oculogica Inc has licensed exclusive world-wide rights for commercialization of the technology, for which a patent was issued earlier this month.

NSBRI funded the eye tracking research as a grant to the company Oculogica Inc through the SMARTCAP program which supports commercialization of technologies that will have utility both in space and on earth.  Eye tracking for detection of elevated intracranial pressure could potentially benefit 7 million Americans with hydrocephalus as well as have utility for concussion and other types of brain injury.  One potential indication for eye tracking would be identification of concussed subjects at high risk for second impact syndrome, which is thought to occur after, and further contribute to high intracranial pressure, which can be fatal.

NSBRI has a program investigating technologies for non-invasive monitoring of intracranial pressure which can potentially be elevated during space travel.  Astronauts who experience reduced gravity for prolonged periods of time are at risk for developing headaches and visual problems.  It is thought that without gravity, there is increased pooling of blood in the brain and elevated pressures inside the skull and eye structures.  This risk for elevated intracranial pressure impacts NASA’s plan for prolonged space travel.  Untreated elevated intracranial pressure can lead to cognitive difficulty and vision problems including blindness.  On earth, doctors currently drill holes into the skull to place monitors to measure this pressure in patients with trauma, bleeding in the brain, or certain tumors.  In space, such a measurement is not feasible, necessitating non-invasive measurement.

Dr. Samadani is a founder of the company Oculogica Inc., which is currently applying for FDA clearance for the eye tracking technology, called EyeBox.  She disclosed that she, New York University, the Department of Veterans Affairs and Hennepin County Medical Center all had equity interests in the company.

Visit HCMC at the Fair for hands-on health activities, eye-opening research

cropped more state farijpgHennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), Minnesota’s first Level I Adult and Pediatric Trauma Center is at the Minnesota State Fair during the best days of summer with hands-on health activities in the Health Fair 11 Building, located at the corner of Dan Patch Avenue and Cooper Street.

The fun begins on the first day of the Fair when kids are invited to try hands-on medical play activities including finger casting, play stitching, ultrasounds and more. Daily attractions include Bernie the Rescue Dog, HCMC’s mascot, who will be at the booth from 10am to 2pm as well as MVNA nurses who will offer flu shots and free blood pressure checks.

One of the unique daily features taking place at HCMC’s booth is the opportunity to participate in the Minnesota Healthy Brain Initiative research study. Participants complete a questionnaire, then watch a music video while their eyes movements are watched and measured using a tracking camera.

“Data have shown a connection between brain injury and abnormal eye movements,” explains neurosurgeon Uzma Samadani, M.D., Ph.D., the Rockswold Kaplan Endowed Chair for TBI Research at HCMC, who is also an associate professor at the University of Minnesota. “We’re so excited to have Fairgoers help with this research that will eventually be used to develop life-changing diagnostic and treatment methods.”

Dr. David Hilden, host of the Healthy Matters radio program heard every Sunday morning
on WCCO Radio will answer health questions from a live audience at the WCCO Radio booth on August 28 and September 4 from 7:30 to 8:30am. On August 28, Dr. Samadani will join Dr. Hilden on his show to briefly discuss the eye-tracking research.

For a full list of the exciting activities HCMC is offering at the 2016 Minnesota State Fair, go to hcmc.org/statefair.

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Healthy work/life balance is essential for caregivers

Office for Professional Worklife is the first of its kind to address physician stress

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For many professions, finding the right balance between work schedules and home life can be challenging. Health care providers are not immune to this issue. In fact, stress and burnout are prevalent in the medical field and if left unaddressed, can affect both providers and patients.

“Physician burnout is  an epidemic,” explains Dr. Mark Linzer, an internal medicine physician and nationally recognized expert on issues surrounding physician burnout. “But research has shown that there are effective ways to improve the workplace and decrease clinician stress.”

After researching the topic for 20 years, Dr. Linzer is bringing his expertise home to focus on a new innovation at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) – the creation of the Office for Professional Worklife (OPW).

“We believe healthy providers are essential to achieving our organizational goals of providing outstanding patient and family centered care,” says Dr. Linzer. “In doing this, we want our clinicians to feel supported when they provide high quality care to their patients.We also want them to be available for their families and their own self-care.  This will result in more energy for patient care, better recruitment and retention, more loyalty to the organization, and better morale among clinicians and staff.”

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Dr. Mark Linzer and Sara Poplau

Dr. Linzer and his colleague Sara Poplau, Senior Research Project Manager and Assistant Director of the OPW, will head the program that focuses on offering wellness services that improve the work lives of all HCMC providers. There’s a national need for this type of focus on stress and burnout, and they hope this program will become a model for other care systems.

“Providers need to know their workplace is supportive of  work life balance,” says Dr. Linzer. “This can be accomplished by implementing wellness initiatives that redesign workflow in the clinics and improve communication between provider groups.” Linzer and Poplau  hope to create a model of the supportive organization that promotes humanism in medicine and the highest quality care for patients.

Services offered by the OPW will include: one-on-one discussions about work-life; advocacy for ways to improve balance between work and life for providers; and partnering with the HCMC Provider Wellness Committee, Wellness Champions and Department Chiefs to ensure that the needs of providers are heard and addressed. “We hope by elevating work-life balance to the level of this office that providers will know this is a serious issue and there is help,” said Sara Poplau.

One unique feature of the OPW will be a “reset room” where providers can go for quiet time to recharge during the busy workday. It will serve as an “oasis” for providers during stressful times.

“Our providers work very hard and are dedicated to delivering compassionate, high-quality care for those in need,” Dr. Linzer says. “We all come with the best intentions, but sometimes we get stressed. Addressing issues before they cause burnout is critical to making sure that providers are practicing medicine in the best environment possible.”

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Dramatic results in TBI research

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Dr. Sarah Rockswold and Dr. Gaylan Rockswold


Dr. Gaylan Rockswold and Dr. Sarah Rockswold, along with researchers at the  University of Minnesota and Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation report that the combined use of hyperbaric oxygen (HBO
2) and normobaric hyperoxia (NBH) therapies provides better outcomes in patients with severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) than the standard intensive neurosurgical care recommended for this injury.

“We have never seen this kind of functional outcome improvement in a  TBI study,” explains Dr. Sarah Rockswold. “Combining HBO2 treatments with NBH treatments made a dramatic difference in outcomes.” Continue reading “Dramatic results in TBI research”

DHHS updates guidelines for treating HIV/AIDS

Nationally recognized HCMC physician on DHHS advisory panel

The US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Panel on Antiretroviral Guidelines for Adults and Adolescents (A working group of the Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council of the National Institutes of Health) has updated its recommendations for treatment of HIV/AIDS.

Dr. Keith Henry

HCMC’s Keith Henry, MD is a nationally recognized leader in HIV research and a member of the DHHS Guidelines Panel. “Two key elements of the updated guidelines are a recommendation to treat all HIV-infected persons and the benefit of treatment for preventing transmission of the disease,” explains Dr. Henry. “The Positive Care Center of HCMC endorses the new DHHS HIV Treatment Guidelines and is very engaged in the development and evaluation of numerous promising new drugs to treat HIV, including several new, one-pill-a-day treatment options.”

The recommendations include encouraging persons at risk for HIV infection to get tested for HIV, and those who have never been treated are encouraged to discuss treatment with their physicians. Never treated and/or newly diagnosed HIV positive persons interested in HIV treatment research are encouraged to call HCMC at 612-873-7678 for details about how they may be eligible for treatment provided at no cost or minimal cost to patients.

Click on the link below to see a complete list of the DHHS recommendations:
New HIV Guidelines March 2012

The Positive Care Center at HCMC is staffed by a multi-disciplinary team committed to providing quality, comprehensive health and psychosocial services to those infected with HIV. The program provides education, serves as a community and family resource, and contributes to the advancement of HIV-related knowledge. For more information or to schedule an appointment at the Positive Care Center call 612-873-2700.