When investigating a possible concussion, environment matters.
For example, the relatively-controlled atmosphere of a top-tier research hospital is much different than a military situation. Researchers with Temple University College of Public Health and College of Engineering have collaborated on a new tool to help medical professionals assess these types of injuries in the field.
Dr. Iyad Obeid, associate professor in electrical and computer engineering, partnered with Carole Tucker, the chair of the physical therapy department in the College of Public Health, to devise some sort of field-deployable techniques for quantifying sense of balance.
"If you're in some forward-operating military post with someone who may have a concussion and reports they are feeling fine, how do you know for sure? Maybe they're just saying they feel okay because they all want to go back and continue being productive," Dr. Obeid said.
Dr. Obeid described the device as necessarily portable and designed to be operated by someone with a bare-minimum of training.
"Traditionally, those tests have been scored by a trained clinician watching you go through this series of poses and measure how well your balance is," Dr. Obeid said. "Obviously, that doesn't work in a military environment. We are building a computer vision system, using a Microsoft Kinect, which can watch the person and instantly give you a score as to what your balance is like."
As he describes it, if you sway in certain directions and in certain amounts, it could be a tell-tale sign that you're having trouble maintaining balance that in some way could be derivative of having a concussion or musculoskeletal injury.
Dr. Obeid, who specializes in brain signal processing, connected with Dr. Tucker, who has a M.S. in electrical engineering and whose research interests include brain injuries, musculoskeletal conditions, and movement disorders.
Though the end goal is to create a commercial product, narrowing to a single practical focus remains a work in progress. While describing the substantial void between a research-grade science project and a commercially-viable item, Dr. Obeid noted the possibility exists for a wide array of additional uses—both military and civilian.
"Just because you get it working in your lab doesn't mean it's ready for the wild," he said. "We're starting to look at other military applications. For example, can you use this for training military? Can you use it for physical therapy for injured war fighters? Is there a medical application? There are a lot of roads we can take."