The Eyes are a Window to the Brain

Photo by Lukáš Dlutko from Pexels


Traumatic brain injuries are unexpected and can radically change a person’s life. Many people who have suffered a traumatic brain injury have difficulty with vision and balance. Often the root of these problems is a broken connection between the inner ear, the eyes and the brain, also known as the ‘vestibular system’. Everyday exciting new tools are being developed to test brain function following traumatic brain injury. One of these cool new tools is eye-tracking goggles. You may have heard the saying that the eyes are the windows to the soul. Well, they can definitely be a window to the brain. Eye-tracking goggles look for tiny characteristic eye movements that tell researchers and clinicians if the ear-eye-brain vestibular connection is broken.

The Scientists

Julie Joyce, MS Student

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Chantel Debert

University of Calgary

Dr. Debert's Website


This project brought together researchers from France, Israel and Canada to evaluate the use of new eye-tracking tools in kids and adults who had suffered a traumatic brain injury. Without sufficient tools to detect vestibular problems, clinicians struggle to focus their rehabilitation interventions on addressing specific patient needs. Branch Out has funded this study to grow the traumatic brain injury toolkit to help clinicians better detect vestibular problems and help patients get back to their lives.


For the project: First step detection, second step intervention. The important next step in vestibular research for traumatic brain injury is to create rehabilitation interventions to help the brain heal the ear-eye-brain connection. Our study team is currently working on new rehabilitation strategies. Some of these strategies include having the eyes practice tracking a moving target. You can think of the interventions as physiotherapy for your eyes! Ultimately the aim is to work with hospitals and rehabilitation centers to integrate vestibular rehabilitation strategies into standard clinical care.

For Julie: In 2019, Julie began her Master’s degree in Medical Sciences with a specialization in Medical Imaging at the University of Calgary. She continued to study concussions for her Master's research, but with a refined perspective on aerobic exercise interventions and using advanced neuroimaging technology to better understand why exercise can accelerate recovery. After her graduate studies, Julie hopes to go to medical school to become a clinician-scientist and translate scientific findings into clinical impact.


Amount Funded: $14,000


Julie needs your help!

At the University of Calgary, Julie is conducting a research trial to study exercise as a treatment for concussion symptoms. The exercise program uses a personalized, gradual return-to-exercise approach to avoid exacerbating symptoms and advanced MRI techniques to study brain changes.

If you had a concussion >3 months ago and are experiencing ongoing symptoms, you may be eligible for our research trial. Please see our poster or email us at [email protected] for details!

We are also recruiting healthy individuals without previous concussion/brain injury history for the study (participation involves 2 study visits: 3.5 hours total). Please contact us if interested!


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