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Univ. Spin-Off Creates Concussion Detection App

Eye measurements

(Sakuie, Pixabay)

17 Jan. 2019. A start-up enterprise begun by students at Purdue University developed an iPhone app that detects mild brain injuries by measuring responses of eyes to light. The app, known as Reflex and released earlier this week, is the work of Brightlamp LLC in West Lafayette, Indiana.

The Reflex app measures size and reactions of the pupil in the eye to a beam of light, much like a pupillometer, a device used by neurologists. When a beam of light hits the eye, the pupil responds in a reflex known as pupillary light reflex, thus the name of the app. The light, after entering the pupil, stimulates the retina that sends electrical signals over the optic nerve to the brain. Pupils react predictably to the light beam, constricting then dilating, when there’s no damage to the eye or neurons, or nerve cells. If damage happens, however, when a concussion or other brain injury occurs, changes in the size of the pupil, speed of response, and time needed for recovery differ from normal.

Team doctors and athletic trainers will sometimes shine a penlight into the eyes of athletes on the sidelines to check for pupil reflexes, at best a rough indicator of possible nerve damage. The Reflex app, says Brightlamp is more precise and replicable, and just as easy to administer. The app sends a light beam into the eye, then records a video of the pupillary light reflex response. The test takes a few seconds.

The app measures the latency or delay in response, as well as tracking changes in the size of the pupil, speed of constriction and dilation, and recovery time. Variations in pupillary light reflex responses are correlated with concussion, but also fatigue and other neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. The app is designed for trained clinicians, such as team doctors, who can export the data for future reference.

Brightcamp was founded in 2015 by Purdue chemistry and chemical engineering major Kurtis Sluss and management/finance major Michael Heims. “We give them an objective tool to monitor that,” says Sluss in a university statement. “That way they’re not second-guessing. Plus it gives them data they can reliably look back on and track progression over time.”

The Reflex app is now considered a Class 1 medical device by the Food and Drug Administration, indicating a low-risk diagnostic device, in line with other pupillometers. While the app is free from Apple, the company charges for monthly or annual subscriptions.

Brightcamp incubated at Purdue Foundry, the campus business accelerator, which also helped with gaining a patent for the technology. The founders eventually want to advance the device to provide more medical guidance, such as for youth sports coaches or parents who use the app with their children at home. But that type of device would likely require a higher classification from FDA and clinical trials.

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