Walking and thinking at the same time can be especially difficult for persons who've suffered concussions, and scientists hope to use that multitasking challenge -- measured by a simple radar system -- to quickly screen individuals who may have suffered brain injuries.
By asking an individual to walk a short distance while saying the months of the year in reverse order, researchers at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) can determine if that person is impaired and possibly suffering from a concussion. This simple test, which could be performed on the sideline of a sporting event or on a battlefield, has the potential to help coaches and commanders decide if athletes and soldiers are ready to engage in activity again.
"When a person with a concussion performs cognitive and motor skill tasks simultaneously, they have a different gait pattern than a healthy individual, and we can identify those anomalies in a person's walk with radar," said GTRI research engineer Jennifer Palmer.
More than 1 million concussions and other mild traumatic brain injuries are reported each year in the United States and catching them right after they happen can improve treatment and prevent further injury or other long-term health issues. Diagnosing concussions can be difficult, though, because the symptoms of concussions are not always easily visible or detectable, even though they last for weeks or months following the incident. Methods exist for detecting concussions, but most focus purely on cognitive impairment and do not assess accompanying motor skill deterioration.
Details of GTRI's technique, which simultaneously examines a person's cognitive and motor skills, will be presented on April 26 at the SPIE Defense, Security and Sensing conference in Orlando. GTRI research engineers Kristin Bing and Amy Sharma, principal research scientist (ret) Eugene Greneker, and research scientist Teresa Selee also worked on this project, which is
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Georgia Institute of Technology Research News