Professor Faubert presented at the Sports Physiotherapy Canada Concussion Symposium held recently in Ottawa. He addressed a large audience composed of professional performance and medical sports practitioners, who were keen to find about the latest techniques in concussion management.
Professor Faubert introduced NeuroTracker and explained why it is a relevant and potentially valuable tool for concussion specialists. Here is an overview of the key points covered.
The Role of Visual Processing
Visual processing is a very useful function for assessing brain trauma, and can also be used for guiding and re-educating recovery of brain functions. The neurological systems that NeuroTracker elicits are sensitive to the effects of concussion, and these systems are also adaptive.
NeuroTracker has been scientifically developed over many years, and its evolution had to include the following characteristics.
- Multi-tasking demands – through multiple object tracking the cognitive load of training can be increased to high levels. This also relates to everyday demands on the brain where there is often a need to focus on more than one thing at a time.
- Integration in the visual field – extending visual processing over a larger field is more demanding and recruits a larger neural network. For this reason, people with deficiencies in these systems have a reduced field of view, for example with older people when driving.
- Speed of processing – processing lots of complex visual information over short timescales. This is a common demand in dynamics scenes such as driving, crossing a busy road, or in sports play.
- 3D – activating stereoscopic processes which involve higher order brain functions. When people are tested on NeuroTracker in 3D compared to 2D (non-stereo), it has a clear benefit to performance. It also relates directly to real-world performance demands.
Direct Relevance to Real-World Performance
Several peer-reviewed published studies provide strong evidence that NeuroTracker measures relate strongly to human performance.
- NBA athletes baselined with NeuroTracker showed an 80% correlation with performance throughout a season. This was based on objective gameplay statistics such as turnovers and assists. Other measures, such as reaction time tests, did not correlate with on-court performance.
- Professional athletes have a superior capacity to learn and adapt to NeuroTracker training, and this is a fundamental property of their performance level.
- Laparoscopic surgery performance is predicted by NeuroTracker measures, whereas other measures such as sleep quality and caffeine intake do not.
- NeuroTracker baselines correlate strongly with driving accident risks.
- NeuroTracker training results in similar effects on brainwave activity to taking Ritalin. The effects positively increase brainwave frequencies at rest, and in ways that are associated with increased levels of neuroplasticity.
Transfer to Real-World Performance
Three key studies show that short interventions of NeuroTracker training improve performance outcomes in very different populations.
- A biological motion perception study showed that older people have serious problems processing close-up human movement, but with NeuroTracker training they quickly recover this ability. This shows that older people still have high brain plasticity.
- Children with neurodevelopmental learning disabilities, such as Autism and ADHD, also show high plasticity for NeuroTracker training and clear transfer to cognitive abilities central to learning.
- A soccer study with active controls showed NeuroTracker training improved passing-decision making accuracy in competitive play by 15%.
Learning & Recovery
There are important consequences for how much cognitive load is added to a training program. NeuroTracker research with professional athletes has shown that adding complex tasks in the early stages of training can result in an inefficient learning process. Other research with NeuroTracker shows that if cognitive load is added progressively, overall learning can be accelerated. This is important for concussion recovery because it demonstrates that the correct sequence and intensity of interventions is critical for enhancing a patient’s progress.
Practical Use for Concussion Management
A large study showed that professional rugby players with concussions have significant drops in NeuroTracker baselines compared to normative populations. Once the athletes were medically diagnosed as recovered, NeuroTracker baselines rose to normal levels. Other standardized concussion assessments showed almost no sensitivity for measuring concussion recovery in this population.
Feedback from professionals using NeuroTracker suggests that other concussion assessments can be passed even when patient has not recovered, but with NeuroTracker assessments they will fail tests, until the point they have properly recovered.
Professional clinicians can flexibly adapt NeuroTracker for concussion management practice in very specific ways to treat the needs of their individual patients. There are many examples of leading practitioners sharing their NeuroTracker concussion management protocols.