Neurotracker assessment
Dr. Christie demonstrating NeuroTracker.

NeuroTracker (CogniSens, Inc.) is a computer program that uses a 3D object-tracking task to test participant's visual and cognitive-perceptual abilities. These skills underlie our ability to track object using peripheral vision and predict where they will be after we look away. Following a concussion, cognitive-perceptual skills are a common area where deficits occur. This is especially dangerous for concussed athletes, as they have a decreased ability to process and integrate visual information at a time where these skills are crucial in preventing re-injury. 

How Does NeuroTracker Work?

A session of Neurotracker starts with the participant looking at a stationary 3-D display of eight yellow balls. Four briefly turn orange, and then turn back to yellow, then all eight balls begin to move around a virtual box for eight seconds. The balls stop moving and the participant identifies which of the four balls correspond to the targets identified at the beginning. The correct response is then shown. This is repeated for a total of 20 trials in a session, with the speed of the balls changing after each trial until it stabilizes at the level where the participant makes few or no errors. The average speed of the balls across the 20 trials is recorded as the score for the session. 

Demonstration of NeuroTracker's basic training mode.

Why Does The Concussion Lab Use NeuroTracker?

Because an individual's score tends to normalize at a particular level, a decrease in score may be indicative of concussion.  To determine the utility of NeuroTracker for the detection of concussion we will be gathering baseline data for hundreds of athletes aged 5 to 17, with subsequent testing for all athletes with a suspected concussion. We hypothesize that the presence of concussive injury can be detected by comparing NeuroTracker scores obtained following the suspected injury to baseline scores established prior to the athletic season. This approach allows an individual to be directly compared to themselves, rather than to population norms. This may be valuable given the variability seen in concussion symptoms and severity. Comparison to baseline may also be a valuable tool to guide return-to-play decisions, as NeuroTracker baseline scores recorded at the start of the season can serve as a benchmark for when the athlete has returned to competitive shape.

FUN FACT: NeuroTracker has been used by Manchester United, the Vancouver Canucks, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and many other organizations both to train athletes' cognitive-perceptural abilities and to aid rehabilitation following concussion.