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Long-Term Effects of Low-Level Blast Exposure and High-Caliber Weapons Use in Military Special Operators

  • hunfalvay;, melissa
Publication Date
May 23, 2022
DOI: 10.3390/brainsci12050679
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Chronic low-level blast exposure has been linked with neurological alterations and traumatic brain injury (TBI) biomarkers. Impaired smooth-pursuit eye movements (SPEM) are often associated with TBI. The purpose of this study was to determine whether long-term operators of low-level blast exposure or high-caliber weapons use displayed oculomotor behaviors that differed from controls. Twenty-six members of an elite military unit performed a computerized oculomotor testing task using an eye tracker and completed a concussion assessment questionnaire. The participants were split into a blast exposure group and control group. The blast exposure group had a history of exposure to low-level blasts or high-caliber weapon use. The results revealed significant differences in SPEM, saccades, and fixations between the blast exposure group and control group. The blast exposure group’s eye movements were slower, stopped at more frequent points when following a target, traveled further from the target in terms of both speed and direction, and showed higher rates of variation and inefficiency. Poor oculomotor behavior correlated with a higher symptom severity on the concussion assessment questionnaire. Military special operators exposed to long-term low-level blasts or high-caliber weapons usage displayed an impaired oculomotor behavior in comparison to controls. These findings further our understanding of the impact of long-term low-level blast exposure on the oculomotor behavior of military special operators and may inform practical implications for military training.

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