"We are very excited about the findings because it offers a proof of concept that this technology can detect brain injury and suggest its location," said lead researcher Uzma Samadani from New York University Langone Medical Centre.

The technology will likely be most useful for the assessment of concussion and blast injury which can be difficult to detect with standard imaging techniques, the researchers noted.

"Eye tracking is potentially a simple, non-invasive and cost-effective way to determine quickly which patients need immediate attention," she added.

The study looked at 169 veterans - 157 of whom were neurologically healthy and 12 who either had known weaknesses in the nerves that move the eyes or brain swelling adjacent to those nerves.

Using the new technology, the investigators had participants watch a music video or television content for 220 seconds while they measured the ratio of horizontal to vertical eye movements.

The 12 participants with nerve damage or swelling in the brain pressing on nerves all showed abnormal eye movement ratios correlating to the nerve that was affected.

In every case where the abnormal eye movement was due to swelling in the brain, surgery to fix the brain problem also restored the eye movements to normal range.

The study appeared in the Journal of Neurosurgery.

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