Eye researchers receive $1.1 million Defense Department grant

Vision specialists at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City have received a $1.1 million research grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to study objective methods of testing visual dysfunction in patients with brain injuries or cognitive impairment.

Randy Kardon, M.D., Ph.D., a UI professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences who holds the Pomerantz Family Chair in Ophthalmology, and UI research scientist Pieter Poolman Ph.D., will lead the study. They will validate three methods of assessing visual function: the pupil light reflex, evoked potentials from the visual pathway, and eye movement tracking of visual targets.

The results of the study will also indirectly help address three critical treatment areas, including patients with visual dysfunction caused by traumatic brain injury, traumatic optic nerve injuries, and blast or burn injuries in the eye.

The study has important potential applications and implication beyond military personnel. Similar damage to the visual system can also occur among civilians who receive traumatic brain injuries resulting from motor vehicle accidents and contact sports. In addition, the objective tests of vision being developed in the study may be applied to infants and children.