Your Brain Health Episode 15

Introduction: This is Your Brain Health with noted Neuroscientist, Dr. Kristen Willeumier. Your Brain Health explores strategies to maximize your cognitive functions through life. Here’s Dr. Kristen Willeumier.

Dr. Kristen Willeumier: Welcome to Your Brain Health. I’m Dr. Kristen Willeumier. Today’s topic is near and dear to my heart as we’re going to discuss innovative ways to treat concussions and restore brain health through restoring eye health, as an extension of the brain. Research shows that the prevalence of vision problems following a concussion may be as high as 69% vision training in the field of neuro rehabilitation is experiencing a tremendous growth in measuring changes in vision and properties of the eyes can be used as an effective objective sideline measurement, aiding athletic trainers and physicians on whether to pull a player out of a game following a concussive or sub-concussive impact. Here to share more about this topic is Kevin McWilliams, CEO and founder of Insight Vision and Brain Diagnostics, and his Lead Medical Research Analyst John Vincent.

 

Mr. McWilliams has built a reputation backed by 30 years experience in neuro ophthalmic device and brings a significant share of industry knowledge in the development of research, clinical, and commercial relationships. He has been building and equipping integrated health delivery network and ambulatory surgery centers and mobile medical platforms for commercial and mission entities in the USA and abroad since 1983. John Vincent is a former division one football player for the University of Cincinnati. Mr. Vincent provides a unique perspective that allows him to utilize his background in neurobiology and five years of experience in biomedical research to help successfully analyze and translate scientifically published research into protocols that can further aid in our practical and objective concussion assessment for athletes. His passion for healing through medicine and research continues his close relationship with UC Sports Medicine, Dr. Joe Clark and team for various research collaborations. John is an aspiring physician where he’s looking to train as a neurologist. So welcome Kevin and John. It’s a pleasure to have you with us today.

Kevin McWilliams: No, thank you.

John Vincent: Yeah, I appreciate the offer to come on the podcast. Thank you.

Host: Oh no, this is such delight. So Kevin and Kevin and John, you’re both working with the University of Cincinnati neurologists and athletic training department among others, to help support the decision making process and concussion diagnostics and return to play guidelines. I love for you to tell us about the medical assessment tools that you have to assist in concussion diagnostics, assessment and rehabilitation. So what is the primary method that you use to help measure the eye, the retina, and the optic nerve health?

Kevin McWilliams: Well along those lines, we have a couple of devices that are kind of a primary go-tos, especially when it comes to getting a baseline, if you will. One is the is referred to as an OCT, which is a acronym for optical coherence tomography. And with that device we are getting this structural image and the integrity of the optic nerve head, which is like cradle nerve two. We get an assessment on the back of the eye, the retina. And we also look at the retina, a little more detail, the retinal nerve fiber layer because your retina has several layers and those layers tend to be affected in concussion and other types of injury. And then we’re also looking at the ganglion cell complex, which is a cell complex that’s actually responsible for carrying the electrical energy from the retina to the back of your brain. And so we’ll take a picture of that and that’s more the structural side of things. And the other method we will use is more electrophysiologic tests and those give us more of the function of the retina and the visual pathways going back to the visual cortex, the back of the brain. And we assess how fast signal is getting there, the strength of those signals. So it’s kind of like an EKG, if you will. So your vision system.

Host: It’s so fascinating. And I will share with the audience, I actually had the opportunity to watch Dr. McWilliams do his test. I was invited to a training camp that they offered for hockey players that are going to be going into the NHL. And I noticed that you can use this as a baseline assessment to measure sort of the health of their eyes. And in that assessment I saw you off also offered a RET eval, which is another noninvasive way to observe the retina and assess optic nerve dysfunction. So are these tools that you have being used as sideline diagnostic tools?

Kevin McWilliams: Yes. Yeah, absolutely. Regarding the sidelines. Yes. And in some places warranted the University of Cincinnati for example which kind of has a pretty reputable sports medicine department, they are using it. They do travel with it. And when they’re making clinical decisions that’s one of the things that they would include in to their testing to kind of get a better understanding of a lot of different ways. So there’s a lot of different, since we’re dealing with a lot of different things with concussion and lots of different potential disorders that can come with it, we need to measure a bunch of different areas. And so it’s also being used in optometry and optometry and osteopathic university as well. As well as the sports medicine team. And they manage about 550 athletes. So in optometry and osteopathic medicine is now being taught to young doctors that are coming up and specifically in this area of using it in brain injury and also the athletic department is using it in their baseline point of injury and return to play protocols.

Host: It’s really fascinating what you’re doing. And I’m wondering, I mean, how many schools do you have that you know of that are working with this technology? It’s something that was new to me being in the concussion field and working with athletes and I love it because it just expands the number of ways that we can assess concussion and assess how quickly people are recovering from concussion. So I was just curious on how much this is expanded out into the sports space.

Kevin McWilliams: Well that’s kind of hard to answer cause it’s relatively new now the technologies themselves are not so new because a lot of technologies we’re using are used in everyday clinical routine in ophthalmology and neurology, making the transition from that into bringing devices into sports medicine, it’s been a process. We’ve been working four years at it, but just started getting into university clinical training and athletic training. So right now for the moment we’re looking at, there’s about three different schools at university level that are actually using it. And then we have some independent people that are beginning to understand it because they deal with neuro optometry, which is kind of like a sub specialty of optometric medicine.

Host: Well, we see when you’re dealing with concussions, there are so many different kinds of vision problems that can occur from the inability to focus eye tracking issues, double vision, sensitivities to light, eye strain. So really a lot can happen. And I’m really excited about the neuro rehabilitation piece that you also offer. So can you tell us a little bit more about your Dynavision two board? Which I really love. I’ve actually had the ability to try it out myself and found it to be really a fascinating way to help support eye health reaction time, information processing speed. So yeah, I’d love for you to explain it to our audience.

Kevin McWilliams: Yeah, well at the fundamental level and this may be a little more scientific speak, but the Dyna Vision Board is really fascinating. And when I discovered it, it reminded me of visual field testing, which I’m quite familiar with. And the Dyna Vision Board, for example, has 64 lights and push buttons and they light in different colors. Well, the human vision system has 64 arcs in their visual field, but so what this device can do for us, what it does I mean, assessment side of things, it gives us a gross assessment of the visual field, peripheral vision, central vision, and also the brain and body’s ability to react to stimulus and in the any area of the visual field. So it helps us assess eye hand coordination and other kinds of things. And I’ll let Jonathan Vincent explain in further about, you know, more of the practicality from his experience with it and what it means to, you know, the sport athlete to the Alzheimer’s patient or something like this.

Host: I would love that. I’d love to have John jump in because he’s the one that took me through the training on the Dyna Vision Board. So John, why don’t you share your experience with it and also not only how you could use it to work with athletes or somebody who might have Alzheimer’s issues, but how about somebody with a healthy brain? So John, tell us a little bit more.

John Vincent: Okay, yeah, of course. Yeah, so I’m coming from my background of actually doing the vision training with Dr. Clark and, you know, being an athlete for the University of Cincinnati. We do vision training quite often, and the beauty of it is the practicality that the players themselves can see from it. Because as a student athlete one, I mean, one can assume that we already have such a full plate and it’s kind of, you know, initially it’s like, great, now we have another thing we have to do. But when they get on the board and they see the practicality of it, when you know a QB is turned in a stance, holding the ball, holding the ball in his throwing hand, using the Dyna Vision Board with his non throwing hand, and then having to quickly turn his head to look at flashcards, and do all of these things together really tests, you know, their executive functioning. And they see the practicality cause it also helps their peripheral vision when they’re on the field to protect them from, QBs specifically, to protect them from the most dangerous of hits for them, is there a backside blindside hits, you know, from a D lineman or a linebacker that’s coming to sack them. And also, you know, referring to like wide receivers or DBs, there’s an over the shoulder drill that we do that they really do see the practicality of it. And that’s what’s so great about it.

Host: So you’re using it and not to interrupt, but you’re using this in a brain training capacity for your QBs, for people that are on the team. And that’s a really sort of fascinating portal that you can go down. So you do the training. And can I ask you, did you do this training when you came in year one playing football? Was this program implemented?

John Vincent: Oh, so I’m sorry, say that again. Did it, did it come in?

Host: Yes. When you first became an athlete.

John Vincent: What we’re doing? Oh yeah, definitely. So I think UC has been doing this for about eight years now. So yeah, I started, I started doing it about five years ago. It was my freshman year.

Host: And I recall in speaking with you, don’t you do the training every single day?

John Vincent: Oh yeah. Cause I’m always working with Dr. Clark and doing division training still with the athletes, now I’m leading them through it as well. So I always make sure to get, you know, my round in.

Host: Right. And how long do you do your training? Is it 10 minutes, five minutes, half an hour?

John Vincent: So typically I do it about 15 to 20 minutes because that’s essentially when, you know, the brain starts creating those [inaudible] 12:44] and stuff like that is around 15 minute.

Host: And by doing this training throughout the four years that you played football at the University of Cincinnati, you found that it helped in supporting your brain function?

John Vincent: Yes, I would say definitely at an athletic level, but more importantly for me, at least on the academic side as well. Like I could have definitely seen improvements in reading comprehension and especially, you know, with the ocular motor training that we do, especially reading speeds.

Host: This is why wanted to have you on the show. Because when I tried it, I was fascinated as somebody who always wants to optimize brain function. I was like, I want one of these boards. These are amazing. Not only should they be used for athletes, but let’s transition into somebody who perhaps has a degenerative disorder. So as Kevin had mentioned, Alzheimer’s, are these being used in facilities? I mean, can they be used there to help hand-eye coordination?

John Vincent: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. They’re using, from what I know of a couple physical therapy locations where, you know, if you have shoulder issues or something like that, there’s training modalities with the Dyna Vision Two board that allow for, you know, that rehabilitation component using that on the arm that has a bad shoulder, you know the elderly can definitely use this and people even in wheelchairs, you know, you can lower the board all the way down and you have access to the entire board.

Kevin McWilliams: Yeah and there’s another thing that’s kind of interesting too. There was a hospital down in Florida, I believe it was one of the Baptist hospitals and in the Alzheimer’s rehab, you know, within the Dyna Vision, there’s other tools. So in the middle of it there’s a little screen. And so they were putting names of like loved ones and other people in that screen and was helping these patients to recall people’s names that they may have forgotten. So there’s a lot of utility.

Host: This is extraordinary. And you know, as we’re about close here, the one thing that I read that I thought was fascinating is by implementing this kind of vision training. Say in a sports program, if an athlete has a sub concussive hit or concussive impact and they need to be rehabilitated by the nature of having already done this training, is it accurate to say that the brain can rehabilitate faster because it’s like a muscle that’s already been worked in the brain? Am I presenting that appropriately?

John Vincent: My analogy is essentially, you know, if you pull your hamstring and you haven’t been working out ever, you know, it’s going to take a lot longer for your hamstrings to heal because you have to first teach your body how to train appropriately, and then you can work on re rehabbing that torn hamstring. So it’s essentially the same thing, the neuro visual training on the Dyna Vision and through our other modalities. They are training your brain so that if an injury does occur then it can return to or you can return to play more quickly and it can heal more quickly. The University of Cincinnati, I believe they have a six and a half day return to play average after the incident of a concussion when the national average is between somewhere between 14 to 21 days.

Host: Wow. That just shows how important this kind of work in a university setting can be helpful to athletes who participate in these sports. So John Vincent, Kevin McWilliams, this has been such a wonderful interview. I’ve learned so much. Where can people find you and learn more about these tools, the brain rehabilitation tools, the way to help measure retinal health and optic nerve health. Where can they find you?

Kevin McWilliams: Well, if you’re, our website, our URL if you will, is insightvision-brain.com. And so if you’re a physician or a caregiver, we are a group that can guide you in diagnostic equipment and protocols. If you are a school or facility and would like services like this delivered to your school or athletic programs, especially for youth. We also have a mobile services where we’re able to provide that and teach your people with the tools. So yeah, so we have our website insightvision-brain.com. You can reach us on Twitter, which is insight VBP Victor boy David. That’s our Twitter handle. Facebook, our Facebook pages, simply insight vision plus brain. And for Instagram it’s insight, vision underscore brain. And we’re also on LinkedIn, easy to find and insight vision brain diagnostics. So there’s a lot of different ways you can kind of reach out or at least get some of the story.

Host: Well Kevin, John, thank you so much for being guests today and you’re right, I didn’t even get to talk about your mobile neuroscience unit, which can be used to go to schools, whether high schools, collegiate schools where you can actually bring these tools, bring the Dyna Vision Board and experience, experience it for yourself. So I will make sure to get that information out on social media. Thank you both for being such great guests. And I would love to have you back.

Kevin McWilliams: Well, we love the comeback cause there’s a lot to talk about cause we’re talking about the brain. There’s a lot going on there and part of the encapsulating in a short period of, thank you so much Dr. Willeumier for having us. I appreciate your time today.

John Vincent: Thank you so much.

Host: Oh, thank you. It’s such a pleasure and I’ll look forward to talking to you both soon.

Conclusion: You’ve been listening to Your Brain Health with Dr. Kristen Willeumier. For more information or to contact Dr. Willeumier, visit DrWilleumier.com. That’s D, R, W, I, L, L, E, U, M, I, E, R.com.