We tested whether reduced cognitive function associated with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and sleep deprivation can be detected and distinguished using indices of predictive visual tracking. A circular visual tracking test was given to 13 patients with acute mTBI (recruited within 2 weeks of injury), 127 normal control subjects, and 43 healthy subjects who were fatigued by 26-hour sleep deprivation. Eye movement was monitored with video-oculography. In the mTBI-related portion of the study, visual tracking performance of acute mTBI patients was significantly worse than normal subjects (p < 0.001). In the sleep-deprivation-related portion of the study, no change was detected between the two baseline measures separated by 2 to 3 weeks, but the 26-hour sleep deprivation significantly degraded the visual tracking performance (p < 0.001). The mTBI subjects had substantially worse visual tracking than sleep-deprived subjects that could also be identified with different visual tracking indices, indicating possible different neurophysiological mechanisms. Results suggest that cognitive impairment associated with mTBI and fatigue may be triaged with the aid of visual tracking measures.
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