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Non-Contact Device to Measure Eye Movement as an Indicator of Brainstem Activity Wins University College Dublin Commercialisation Award

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An early-stage business idea to commercialise a non-contact device to measure eye movement as an indicator of brainstem activity has won a University College Dublin (UCD) commercialisation award. The business idea, which significantly overcomes the limitations of the current measurement system, has won the 2015 UCD Engineering Innovation Sprint Programme.

Ocular MicroTremor (OMT) is a tiny, involuntary fixational movement of the human eye which occurs even when the eye is apparently still and is caused by constant activity of of brainstem oculomotor units. Clinical interest in the measurement of OMT exists as it can be applied to provide an indication of brainstem activity or alertness, including the effect of concussion or head trauma; predication of coma outcome; optimising drug dose delivery associated with anaesthesia and treating patients with multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease, and unambiguous brainstem death confirmation. 

The current standard time consuming method of measuring OMT frequency is to invasively place a sterilised, single use piezo-electric probe or needle firmly and uncomfortably against an individual’s sclera (the white of the eye) and to measure the resulting qualitative signal.

The winning business idea, which has emerged from the 2015 UCD Engineering Innovation Sprint Programme, is based on commercialising the indirect Brainstem Activity Monitor, a non-contact, non-invasive, fast and portable optical measurement device which combines innovative optical engineering hardware and software algorithms to overcome limitations of current measurement system.  The non-contact sensing device provides a single number result similar to a ‘pulse’ measurement.  It is safe, fast, reliable, accurate and quantitative. Being a portable device it can also be used in a clinical or sports setting and is easy-to-operate.

The promoters of this early-stage business idea are Professor John T. Sheridan, Professor of Optical Engineering, UCD Earth Institute and UCD School of Electrical, Electronic and Communications Engineering and Dr James P. Ryle who completed his PhD under the supervision of Professor Sheridan. 

(l-r) Derek O'Brien, John Sheridan, James Ryle, Brendan Cremen

(l-r) Derek O'Brien, John Sheridan, James Ryle, Brendan Cremen

(l-r) Derek O'Brien, John Sheridan, James Ryle, Brendan Cremen

(l-r) Derek O'Brien, John Sheridan, James Ryle, Brendan Cremen

The UCD Engineering Innovation Sprint Programme is a 1-day initiative designed and delivered by UCD’s technology transfer and enterprise development teams at NovaUCD in collaboration with the UCD Earth Institute. The programme aims to encourage the development of commercial outputs arising from engineering research taking place at UCD by engaging with researchers at an earlier stage in the commercialisation process.

NovaUCD's Brendan Cremen said, “Our team at NovaUCD was delighted to have worked again in partnership with the UCD Earth Institute in the design and delivery of this Sprint programme, which was focused on testing new engineering business ideas in an exciting and fun environment.” 

The other participants who took part in the Programme were;

  • Liam Doherty, a PhD student, UCD School of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering
  • David Gibbons, an MSc student, UCD School of Biosystems Engineering
  • Michael Mescal, a Masters student, UCD School of Architecture.