More than two million people experience concussions each year, and they include athletes from every sport, accident victims and military personnel.
In simplest terms, a concussion is a type of mild traumatic brain injury, typically caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head. The sudden impact of the brain hitting the skull can result in damage to brain cells.
While most people who suffer a concussion are back in full swing within three weeks, an immediate diagnosis is the first critical step to ensuring appropriate treatment. Current methods of diagnosis, however, are cumbersome and rely heavily on patient self-diagnosis.
Enter Pittsburgh’s Neuro Kinetics Inc. (NKI).
NKI is the innovator of I-Portal®, a technology that recognizes the human eye as the window to the brain. The eye, explains CEO Howison Schroeder, is in constant motion, moving faster and more subtly than can be detected by visual observation. By using patient goggles embedded with high-speed eye tracking and stimulus displays, the I-Portal® diagnostic device hones in on the center of the pupil. It tracks and records with great precision the reaction time and abnormal eye movement in response to particular stimuli.
The data can provide reliable indicators of more of than 200 potentially debilitating diseases, including Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Diabetic Retinopathy and Meniere’s Disease.
In 2014, NKI, along with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the University of Miami School of Medicine, received funding to research the early detection of concussions.
NKI applied its I-Portal® technology, and created a portable device that reduces a concussion evaluation to less than 10 minutes. The results of the evaluation, in contrast to patient feedback, can objectively detect deficits resulting from a concussion.
NKI is currently seeking FDA approval for the I-Portal® PAS and its use as a means of diagnosing concussions.
Given the call for heightened accountability in the early detection of concussions, Mr. Schroeder expects the I-Portal® diagnostic device to move beyond emergency rooms and neurology clinics, where most concussions are currently diagnosed. The non-invasive and portable device, he notes, will be ideal for military populations and athletic venues, where on-site diagnoses will prevent potentially harmful delays in treatment.
NKI is not new to the Pittsburgh scene. The company pioneered research on the vestibular system, developing technology that has been successfully applied by audiologists, otolaryngologists and other specialists for decades. In the 1970s, NASA tapped NKI’s expertise in motion-control systems to further its own vestibular organ research.