UCD engineers win innovation award for brainstem activity monitor

Device detects brainstem activity by measuring involuntary eye movement

A team of engineers in UCD has won an award for the commercial potential of a device that allows medics to monitor brainstem activity or alertness by measuring involuntary eye movement.

Accurate measurement of the movement, known as Ocular MicroTremor, is considered important by doctors in a range of areas, including assessing the effect of concussion or head trauma. It can also be used to predict outcomes in coma patients and to determine dosage in patients under anaesthesia and those with multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease.

Lack of such movement enables doctors to confirm brainstem death.

Currently, medics have to use a probe, or needle, against the white of the eye in an invasive and time-consuming procedure.


The indirect Brainstem Activity Monitor developed by Prof John Sheridan and Dr James Ryle, makes no direct contact with the eye, is portable and can deliver a fast, reliable result.

The early-stage business idea has now won the 2015 UCD Engineering Innovation Sprint Programme, with UCD director of enterprise and commercialisation Brendan Cremen saying it "has the potential to make a significant impact in the health industry in Ireland and internationally".

“The eye motion we wish to measure has a small amplitude [100 times smaller than a human hair] and a high speed [50 times faster than a heartbeat],” said Prof Sheridan, who is professor of optical engineering at the UCD Earth Institute.

“This is very useful as, for example, under anaesthesia this motion of the eye becomes slower and therefore provides an excellent way to monitor the effects of the anaesthetic on the patient’s brain.”

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle is Deputy Business Editor of The Irish Times