Assessment of Visual-Motor Tracking Following Concussion


David Smith

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USU Student Showcase

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Breanna Studenka


Accurate assessment of impairment following concussion is critical as a second concussion sustained shortly after the first could result in a longer recovery time (De Beaumont et al., 2007; Iverson et al., 2004) and second impact syndrome (Cantu, 1992, 1998). Traditional assessments of concussion involve subjective assessments of performance on cognitive function and balance (e.g., SCAT3 or BESS) that can improve with practice, or expensive equipment that cannot be removed from the clinic (e.g., a force plate; NeuroCom), making objective, informative, and cost-effective "sideline" assessments difficult. In addition, research indicates that some impairments such as on neurocognitive and balance tasks may persist after typical symptoms have returned to baseline (McCrea, 2005). There is a need for cost-effective, alternative, screening tools that better assess the impact of concussion. We investigated an alternative concussion assessment using performance on a visual-motor tracking task. Behavior that is more pathologic (e.g., postural sway in participants with Parkinson's disease) exhibits more regularity (assessed via a non-linear measure called approximate entropy) than non-pathologic behavior (West, 2006). More regularity in behavior has been linked to greater attentional demands, less automaticity in movement, and general physiological impairment (Sosnoff & Newell, 2008). We had participants perform a visual-motor tracking task. The visual-motor tracking task involves pressing a finger to a force sensor and trying to match a line on a computer screen. The data is a time-series of continuous behavior that can be examined for changes such as how regular the time series was over time. We tested 49 participants who had sustained a concussion in the past and 49 participants who had not. Participants who had sustained concussion in the past year exhibited less regularity than participants who had not sustained a concussion. This finding is a first step toward developing a new tool for concussion screening.

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