Diagnostic Screening for Conscious Awareness in Brain Injury and Disease: Developing the Visual Component

Presently medical personnel do not have adequate tools to assess disorders of conscious awareness after severe brain injury if the patients have difficulty speaking & moving. These people are frequently deemed unresponsive when they may be “in there" but unable to respond. Our research team has developed a rapidly administerable, portable system that measures brain waves in response to sounds & spoken sentences. Once diagnosis has been established, personnel are more equipped to make decisions regarding a patient's candidacy for rehabilitation. Further, the test is repeatable so changes in patient function can be measured over time. Although this was a breakthrough, the team realized that many patients could not be tested with the auditory protocol because they could not hear, did not speak English beforehand or may have aphasia (difficulty understanding/formulating language). To address this shortcoming, my research involves developing visual stimuli to assess these patients & provide a more thorough clinical picture. Military personnel are at significant risk for severe combat associated brain injuries. This diagnostic & monitoring tool will be useful to soldiers, veterans & civilians alike. It has remarkable clinical relevance & fills a critical void in health care.

Intern: 
Carolyn Fleck-Prediger
Faculty Supervisor: 
Bruce Dick
Province: 
Alberta
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